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

Skylanders: Giants Revealed

“Giants is the idea for the future.”
– Paul Reiche, CEO of Toys for Bob


With the outstanding success of the first Skylanders game, it was only logical that Activision publish its sequel, Skylanders: Giants which was recently revealed. Toys for Bob will be developing the sequel.


From what I’ve read, the current portal device will be compatible with the new game and giant toys. It will also be possible to fit 2 of the giants on a single portal. Some of them will even light up when placed on the portal without using batteries; this is done through a form of “induction”, similar to third-party chargers for cell phones that charge when placed on top of a powered platform.

Will Activision learn from Guitar Hero?

The Guitar Hero series comes to mind for anyone thinking of another peripheral-based game. Guitar Hero started off as a financially successful game with critically-acclaimed reviews. However, as the series progressed, the sequels started to receive lower reviews, resulting in lower sales. In addition, “video game politics” made more things complicated with Rock Band’s competition, Band Hero and DJ Hero. To make things more complicated, there were licensing issues and legal issues. Some artists featured in the game did not approve of their likenesses being used when playing songs they did not write. Song DLC purchased could not be played other than the one game it was intended for. There were even technical issues regarding which controllers were compatible with which games. After it was announced that Guitar Hero sequels would be postponed, there have been several layoffs. While Skylanders and Guitar Hero are very different from one another, I hope the series doesn’t fall victim to the same over-saturation that Guitar Hero suffered. Did you know that Toys for Bob helped out during the development of Guitar Hero 5 and Van Halen?

Conclusion

A Skylanders sequel was the most likely project TFB would be working on, considering Activision’s love for multi-platform sequels. It’s awesome that TFB prevailed in the game industry and maintained a strong relationship with Activision through hard work, meeting deadlines and experience in game design that enabled them to create games that are easy to understand for any age group. I just hope that Activision doesn’t go insane and publish rushed sequels.

What do you think about this Skylanders sequel?

Links
Joystiq – Skylanders creative lead eying Wii U’s NFC for the future
Star Controller – Guitar Hero: Van Halen
Skylanders: Giants – Activision Media Center

TFB & Skylanders Praised in Activision’s Q3 2011 Earnings Report


Eric Hirshberg: “They’re not toys; these are superheroes they’re alive inside!”

Even though I am not a financial expert, I occasionally skim through Activision’s annual and quarterly for things that I may find interesting. The purpose of these reports are to show investors how much profit is being made and what their expectations for the future are. Needless to say, Activision is clearly making high profits. In this year’s report for the third quarter, Skylanders is mentioned multiple times, and Bobby Kotick gives a shout-out to Toys for Bob.

“…our industry-leading capability to develop original, globally-appealing innovative intellectual property, which we do exceptionally well, continues with Skylanders.”

“Also, with respect to industry firsts, I want to thank everyone at our wonderful studio, Toys for Bob, for all their inspired work on Skylanders. The game has received outstanding critical response, and although it’s early in the quarter, so far Skylanders is performing ahead for our expectations.”

“Modern Warfare 3, Call of Duty Elite and Skylanders are all extraordinary examples of how we continue to redefine entertainment around the world.”
-Bobby Kotick, Activision-Blizzard CEO

“Inventories of $207 million increased sequentially ahead of the Skylanders launch…”
-Thomas Tippl, Activision-Blizzard COO/CFO

“…we put a tremendous amount of passion, imagination and innovation to the creation of Skylanders and the result is the world’s first truly cross-platform game, which brings the world of toys, video games and the Web and mobile together like never before.”

“…in the West, the markets of toys is actually bigger than the market for video games. The franchise like Skylanders, which brings these 2 audiences together, represents significant opportunities.”

“…Skylanders is already on many of the most influential list for the top toys of the holidays including the Toys ‘R’ Us Holiday Hot Toy List, the Toy Insider ‘Hot 20 List’ and Time to Play’s ‘Power Ups’ holiday toy list.”

“…our retail partners have embraced Skylanders as though we’re an established franchise, giving us unprecedented shelf space and store presence.”

“…reviews have been incredibly strong, especially for a kids title. Gamers received an average 87 ranking across 5 platforms according to GAMESMagazine.com and my favorite are some of the reviews from the hard-core gamer press who really seem to love it.”

“…the game is performing ahead of our expectations in both starter pack sales and the sale of individual toys. As of today, there are already millions of toys in the hands of children around the world.”

“…after only a few weeks in the market, literally all of our major retail partners across all territories have already placed reorders.”

“So in summary, this year, we have delivered innovation with both Skylanders and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Call of Duty Elite, which are firsts for the industry.”

“…in terms of Skylanders, we’re not going to discuss exact attach rates but it is — we can say that it is higher than we expected.”

– Eric Hirshberg, Activision Publishing CEO

Conclusion

It is clear that Activision is continuing to make lots of money. They are the largest third-party publisher in the world. Even though Skylanders is completely different from what we were expecting before their announcement, it’s has been very successful. The combination of TFB’s creative control, younger target audience, fascinating toy collection elements and Activision’s strong marketing campaign made Skylanders far more successful than anyone could have imagined. After listening to Activision’s report, I almost forgot about the developers who were closed down or downsized because of unsuccessful games. Regardless of the video game politics, TFB is clearly here to stay and they are still growing in size. Because of this success, their relationship with Activision is stronger. It’s nice to hear that Kotick gave them a shout-out in the report in addition to the remark he made in an older interview that he was the one who gave TFB additional time during it’s development. Eric had the most to say about Skylanders because he is directly involved in publishing the games.

This is essentially the American equivalent of Pokémon. The collectible toy market is going to have stronger competition now and there will definitely be a sequel. If TFB isn’t working on Skylanders 2 as their next project, the TFB guessing game continues…

Links

Activision’s Q3 2011 Earnings Report

The Ur-Quan Masters in January 2010 Game Developer Magazine

Game Developer is a monthly magazine that concentrates on professional video game development topics.  Anyone who is a game developer in the USA can get it for free, while everyone else can pay for the printed or digital copy.

Portions of Game Developer can be viewed online for free.  It is because of this that I have been able to find an article titled “2010 space is the place”, written by Jeffrey Fleming.  The article briefly describes 7 open source science fiction games, what’s great about them and where they can be downloaded.  Here’s a snippet of what Jeffrey said about Star Control II before explaining how it evolved into the open source port known as The Ur-Quan Masters:

Combining open-world training, exploration, and combat with a deep and cleverly-written dialog system, Star Control 2’s vast universe was given extra charm by a quirky graphic design that included art and music contributions from old school TSR illustrator Erol Otus.
– “2010 space is the place”, Jeffrey Fleming, Game Designer, Jan 2010

TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) was the original company that created Dungeons & Dragons.  They have been purchased by Wizards of the Coast who now own the franchise.  Erol worked as an artist for various Dungeons & Dragons manuals.  At that time, Paul Reiche III also worked as a game designer for D&D before entering the world of video game design.

This reminds of me of the PC Gamer Top 100 article I wrote before and I’m impressed that Star Control II got mentioned in a 2010 magazine so soon.  Who knows?  Maybe we can rally enough votes to get Star Control II in PC Gamer too.

I’d like to thank Jeffrey Fleming for including The Ur-Quan Masters in his article.

Links
Game Developer: “2010 space is the place”
Erol Otus’ artist credits while at TSR

Paul Reiche’s credits while at TSR
Vote Star Control II and 4 other games for PC Gamer Top 100

P.S.  Did you know that Erol did the voice of the Chmmr and Paul did the voice of the Mycon and Talking Pet?

StarCon Post Revision

I have been notified that the files that I have uploaded are missing an important file: STARCON_T02.WAV.  This is an important file that is required if anyone wanted to burn this file to a CD.  When I first downloaded the file Dreamer uploaded, I extracted the contents, copied over the BIN and CUE file, missing the WAV file.  It worked fine in ePSXe and I wrongly assumed that I had everything required.  As a result of using 2 computers at the same time and working hastily, I recreated a zip file and reuploaded it.

I am deeply sorry for the confusion I have caused.  I have reuploaded the files and if you have downloaded the files previously from any links that I have provided, here is the correct RAR file:

http://starcontroller.com/files/StarCon_PSX_Beta.rar
http://rapidshare.com/files/244465393/StarCon_PSX_Beta.rar

Thanks to everyone who pointed this out to me.

StarCon Released

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Viddler video.

A SCDB user by the name of Dreamer had another copy of the StarCon prototype and graciously made an image of it and provided a link for everyone to download.

June 14 2009 update: Updated direct link to proper rar file with all track files
Direct Link

It is a BIN/CUE image that is compatible with ePSXe, a very popular PlayStation 1 emulator.  I do not know if burning this to a CD will work on a modified PlayStation because I do not have one.  A long time ago, I got ePSXe with the required files in anticipation of the StarCon image being released.  It was difficult and confusing to get the right files and I want to provide the emulator in a ZIP format so people can try out the prototype.  You will need to copy zlib1.dll to the system32 directory, which is included in the zip file.

Download ePSXe 1.7.0

From what I’ve played, it does not support DualShock or the analog sticks.  Luckily, this emulator is compatible with the Xbox 360 controller; it’s more comfortable than the keyboard, so use a controller if you have one.  If you have the correct drivers installed, just go Config > Game Pad > Port 1 > Pad 1 and bind the PlayStation controls so that it is similar to the Xbox 360 controller layout.  For example, PS1’s X button would correspond to the A button on the 360 controller and so on.

ePSXe configured to Xbox 360 Controller

ePSXe configured for Xbox 360 Controller

Here are the controls of the game:
D-Pad – turning
L1 – Tilt left
R1 – Tilt right
L2 – Decelerate
R2 – Accelerate
Start – Pause
Select – Choose fighter ship window
X – Fire weapon/select
Triangle – Change camera angle
O – Change Target

There are only 2 playable missions:  Assassins and Glory Device.  At the time of the recording, I kept dying during the Assassins mission.  There are no powerups or checkpoints anywhere in this prototype; once the player dies, the game goes back to the mission select screen.  Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to record the Assassins victory mission soon.

Defeat

What kind of ships are those?

However, I was able to achieve victory in the Glory Device mission so I decided to upload that one because it’s the only mission that has a cinematic at the end before Ra-Gar talks to the player again.  Although the mission is called “Glory Device”, the dialog of the game calls it a planet bomb.  When I read “Glory Device”, I immediately thought of the Shofixti, but there’s no mention or sight of them anywhere.  It’s strange that the player can destroy the ship carrying it and it is still intact.  I doubt that the Alliance would retaliate by blowing up the enemy’s planet.

HyperMelee with only 2 ships

HyperMelee with only 2 ships

I also tried out the hypermelee mode.  There is no ship select screen and it starts and it starts with 2 preselected ships in empty space with a planet in the background that is unreachable, like a giant invisible wall.  These ships are different from the ones that I’ve seen in the missions.

I remember talking to someone a long time ago about how things would be different if Star Control II was ported to the PlayStation instead of the ill-fated 3DO.  Things definitely would have been different, but then again, the PlayStation was full of highly-advertised and high-budget video games of its own.  If the 3DO was still in production during this time, StarCon may have been a 3DO game.  There was also a PC version being made and was also cancelled and there is very little information about this version.

StarCon is a continuation of the plot that Accolade attempted without Toys for Bob and it is also considered non-canon.  Ever since I’ve heard of this game, I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to play it, even if it’s incomplete.

Only 2 missions available in this proto.

Only 2 missions available in this proto.

The mission select screen is similar to the star map in the first Star Control game.  Each red spot represents a mission.  There are a total of 12 and only 2 are selectable.

"Hyperion Carrier Destroyed! You Lose!!"

"Hyperium Carrier Destroyed! You Lose!!!"

Starsphere Interactive does not seem to be active anymore; their website was replaced by a jpeg image that shows their contact address at the bottom.  Before their website changed, I remember them writing about how it is not their fault that StarCon was cancelled; it was caused by something within Accolade at the time:

October 5th, 1998 – As of this date, development on StarCon has stopped. When word of Accolade’s decision on StarCon reached the press, several on-line sources reported that the game was being re-evaluated due to deficiencies in the game’s design and attributed that design to Starsphere Interactive. Though only Accolade can speak as to why the game is being re-evaluated at this time, one thing is certain, Starsphere Interactive was not responsible for the design of the game. An internal Accolade team designed StarCon and was also developing the PC version of the game (StarCon is the fourth installment in the Star Control series). Starsphere Interactive was contracted to develop the PlayStation version of StarCon from Accolade’s original PC design and resources.

Definitely check it out:  Accolade’s final attempt at a Star Control without Toys for Bob.  They could not replicate the deep and mysterious universe that TFB designed.  With developers closing down even to this day, I’m glad that Toys for Bob is still around and maintaining their strong personalities and respect for their fanbase (e.g. us).  They know how to survive and when the right time for Star Control is.

"Fighter launched"

"Fighter launched"

Also, when I looked inside the contents of the CD image, I found a single WAV file:  The opening theme music.  I converted it to MP3 and the link is below.  I have no idea who composed it.  Everything else was a file format that I could not readily recognize or open.  If there’s anyone out there who knows how to convert these files into something more convenient, it would be greatly appreciated.

STARTHEM.mp3

Check it out and spread the word!  Thanks to everyone who has sparked up discussion about StarCon, provided information and uploaded the image.  This is the first time I have ever accessed a prototype like this and I’m glad that it has ties to Star Control somehow.

Vote Toys for Bob

SC2 is one of the greatest games of all time.  TFB deserves this!

SC2 is one of the greatest games of all time. TFB deserves this!

I was reading random game news on the internet, when I realized that the April 2009 issue of PC Gamer had an article titled “49 Greatest Developers” by Richard Cobbett.  This is not a top 49 list, where a developer is higher than another; they are simply the greatest developers in no particular order.

So, why 49?  Why not a nice round number like 50?

“And in case you’re wondering why we stopped just shy of that magical number of 50, that’s because we wanted to leave one spot open for you to fill in.  Send us an email at letters at pcgamer dot com to let us know who you would add to that list.”
– Richard Cobbett, “49 Greatest Developers”, April 2009, PC Gamer

We have the chance to show PC Gamer why Toys for Bob deserves this honor.

Can we make it happen?

On the list of 49 are high-profile developers such as Blizzard, Bethesda, Rockstar North, Epic Games, Microsoft, Valve, BioWare and id Software; there are other developers I never guessed such as Dani Bunten-Berry, Popcap, The Nethack Team, Telltale Games, Introversion, Graham Nelson & Emily Short, Tim Schafer and Origin.  This list is not solely based on who has the most sales, biggest guns or even the largest influence on game reviewers; these are people who all have their own fanbase, like Toys for Bob.

We can convince PC Gamer to choose Toys for Bob because TFB has been making games since the beginning of the video game industry.  The two gods we like to call Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford have been making games before they even formed TFB.  Before forming TFB, Paul has worked on other games such as Archon and Starflight; these are also games that have a strong legacy of their own.  Paul was credited in ToeJam & Earl as “Invaluable Help”.  ToeJam & Earl creator, Greg Johnson and Paul are good friends and that’s a really cool connection.

After all of these years, Star Control still has a strong legacy.  Star Control II really raised the bar for what it is capable of evolving into and turned into an entire universe.  It was more than a Melee and Full Game mode.  There was an entire storyline where the player can move around freely in a pre-determined plot to find out what has happened during the war with the Ur-Quan and ultimately strike back and win the war.  Out of the kindness of their hearts, Toys for Bob released the 3DO source code to the community.  It eventually evolved into the open source masterpiece we all know as The Ur-Quan Masters.

It’s not about the quantity of e-mails that PC Gamer receives; it’s about the quality of the letters they receive.  I know there are people out there who will write to them only to say “I love Infinity Ward” and simply say their choice without taking the time to say what’s great about that developer.  If they add small developers to the list of “greatest developers” then there’s nothing to stop Toys for Bob from making this list.  No matter how advanced gaming becomes, it still needs polish, detail, easy controls and enough time to get everything done right.

It’s hopeless if we do nothing; it’s possible if we try.

What can I tell them?

There are many things that can be said.  There is no perfect way to write to them.  The most important thing is being clear, concise and straight to the point.  The people who read these e-mails will be reading thousands of e-mails on a single day, so have fun with the letter and be creative. Put “Toys for Bob” in your subject line, so when they see the subject of your e-mail, they will know who you chose before reading the rest of your e-mail.  Tell them about Star Control:  The deep storyline, complex combat strategy, the open source UQM, great dialog, colorful imagery, etc.  Tell them about Toys for Bob’s desire to make a new Star Control with Activision and how they’ve collected thousands of fan e-mails supporting them.  Most importantly, what do you like about Star Control and Toys for Bob?

I am serious about this!  We have a lot to say and if we can work together and write something that shows our loyalty to TFB and how much we respect them, it will grab their attention.  We even go as far as referring to Paul and Fred as gods for crying out loud!  It doesn’t have to be an essay.  It can even be 250 words (half a page) or less.  I’m going to write to them the moment I finish writing this post.

Spread the word!  We need as much support for this as possible. Send your e-mail to letters at pcgamer dot com.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. :)