Changes

I know it’s been long since I’ve written anything; months.

I’ve been so busy with personal stuff. Right now, I’m just astonished by how much the internet has evolved over the years and the impact of social media. There are people out there with bigger blogs without paid hosting or personalized e-mail addresses. So much content posted on Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Everyone’s re-tweeting, re-blogging, #hashtagging and sharing. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad people are using these products. I do comment on other posts and articles and I always try to briefly summarize it and give my opinion on it.

I never went into this wanting to be an internet celebrity. I just wanted to by a guy with a .com blog with complete control and interesting things to write about. It was a conscious decision to use my real name; I’m not an alter ego or a comedian. I’ve had some interesting contacts by doing this; one person was under the false assumption that I created Star Control and asked for a copy of the game; I wrote a lengthy response explaining that is NOT the case.

I want to do a playthrough of a video game with commentary. With my tight schedule, I’d like to play something that can be played in a single sitting. There are so many games released that are not getting as much recognition as they should. The sci-fi and fantasy genre is growing and the the indie community is rising.

  • Congratulations on TFB for 25 years of success. I remember when I was curious about what their next project could be after Madagascar 2, I assumed it was going to be Madagascar 3. I remember the surprise of the new Skylanders franchise. It dominated the toy and kid’s game market and quickly translated to billions of dollars in sales. TFB mixed their unique creative talents, hardware skills, creativity and created something new and exceeded TFB’s expectations. I’m looking forward to Trap Team. Maybe they’ll throw in more Star Control references for this one too.
  • I’ll try to be more active on the forums again. I think forums are really cool, because it’s all archived and the owners have control over content.
  • I just realized it’s been so long since I’ve done a playthrough of Archon of the Full Game of Star Control 1.

The public library I’m at is blocking access to starcontrol.com. WTF?
URL Blocked

In conclusion, the site will remain running and I still have some ideas for the future. Stay in tune. If you want me to check out any games in particular, want me to check out something else in particular or have any questions, please let me know. My e-mail is anthony at starcontroller dot con and my Twitter is @starcontroller.

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

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

TFB’s Next Project Still Unknown

While the announcement of a new Skylanders game (Swap Force) is no surprise, the fact that Toys for Bob is not working on this one is:

“Vicarious Visions, which has worked on parts of Skylanders since the beginning, is making the Wii U, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Skylanders: Swap Force. The Beenox studio is making a Wii version, while n-Space is making a 3DS version.

Toys for Bob is not developing this one, but they are providing input,‘ [Chris] Wilson said.”
– Dean Takahashi, “Skylanders: Swap Force is Activision’s next big bet on hybrid toy-games (preview)”, VentureBeat.com & Chris Wilson, Activision producer

Skylanders: Swap Force introduces players to another twist to the toy collection extravaganza:

  • There will be 8 new toys that can be separated into two parts, which can be mixed and matched with other parts.
  • A new portal will be required for these toys. They will not be compatible with the older portal.
  • Players can jump in Swap Force.

I really thought Paul’s sarcastic comment about emerging patterns and logic was hinting at a Skylanders game. I guess I was wrong. I guess projects have changed quickly since November 2012 and we can go back to the classic “TFB Guessing Game”. However, it is possible that Vicarious Visions, Beenox and n-Space are working on Swap Force while TFB starts on the next iteration of the Skylanders series for next year. The Call of Duty games are developed this way. Dev duties shift between Infinity Ward and Treyarch (including other studios) in order to work on fewer and larger games that can be released on an annual basis.

What do you think about Swap Force and TFB not developing this one?

Links
YouTube: Fatboy Slim – Weapon of Choice
Skylanders: Swap Force website
Toys For Bob Wins 2012 BAFTA Award
The Guardian – Skylanders Swap Force: ‘We knew we had a magical idea on our hands’
VentureBeat- Skylanders: Swap Force is Activision’s next big bet on hybrid toy-games (preview)

Skylanders Success Skyrocketing!


I was wondering when they would come up with their own Pokerap…

It’s no secret that Skylanders has been a big hit, financially and critically. What is different now is that a dollar amount has been given in the news, representing how much money has been made in US retail sales alone:

“The United States loves Skylanders to the tune of a whopping $500 million of retail sales, as announced by Activision this morning. Based on recently released NPD data, US boys and girls (and US older boys and girls) can’t get enough of the action-RPG games and those oh-so-lucrative accessory packs and figures.”
– Sinan Kubba, “Skylanders franchise up to $500 million retail sales in the US alone”, Joystiq.com

“…according to data from the NPD Group, the Skylanders franchise crossed $500 million in retail sales in the U.S., inclusive of accessory packs and figures, and reached this milestone faster than any other kids’ gaming property”
– Activision Press Release

In conclusion, Toys for Bob made quite the impression to Activision with this game. I had no idea it would have been so successful. It’s quite a long way from Madagascar and Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, isn’t it? With Activision’s current track record, Skylanders 3 is definitely coming. I’m 95% certain that TFB will be making a Skylander’s sequel.

Activision took a risk with TFB’s concept of smart toys, and gave them more development time to polish the game. In doing so, something new and interesting was made and it impressed adults and children. Had it not been for the toys, it probably would have been labelled as a “generic hack n’ slash” game. Maybe this success can lead to Activision taking another risk with TFB’s genius and expertise with a new Star Control someday.

When TFB makes their announcements, how surprised do you think you will be?

Links
Joystiq – Skylanders franchise up to $500 million retail sales in the US alone