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)

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

Did you know? TFB Game Jams

Erik Kain at Forbes posted an interview with Ray West, Senior Game Designer at Toys for Bob. In the article, Disney Infinity is briefly mentioned along with a statement by John Coyne, VP of Consumer Marketing at Activision regarding this new competitor:

“We are thrilled by the incredible success that the Skylanders franchise has had in such a short period of time. We are also flattered that one of the leading family entertainment companies is joining our toys to life category. We continue to focus on delivering innovative and immersive entertainment experiences to kids around the world and are pouring more creativity into our games. As a result we are well positioned to continue leading the category.”
– John Coyne, VP of Consumer Marketing, Activision

The article mentions several things such as their prototyping process, quality control for the toys and how they split into smaller groups and encouraged to “think big” with regards to Skylanders in order to create something new and unique. One thing in particular that caught my interest is their “Game James”, which is not related to Skylanders:

“…we can prototype anything in virtually no time at all. We have Game Jams where teams of people whip up demos and can show them off to the entire studio. Many of these ideas aren’t even remotely Skylanders-related; we’re just doing it because we have a cool idea and we want to see how far we can take it. It’s an incredibly creative atmosphere at Toys For Bob, and it really helps to keep us fresh and motivated to have fun doing our jobs.”
– Ray West

I think this is awesome because it shows that 100% of their time is not dedicated to the Skylanders franchise. They could be working on anything. With the TFB team growing over time, these game jams must be very engaging to witness and to be a part of. While it may be possible that some of these ideas may share a connection with Star Control, these could also be ideas that could someday turn into a unique game idea with the TFB-magic we all know and love. This also reminds of of the “20% time (Innovation Time Off)” concept that Google uses to encourage employees to come up with new ideas and products such as GMail and Google News.

With the recent financial difficulties of Atari and the announced closure of THQ, it’s great to see that TFB is thriving and surviving through these hard times and receiving critical acclaim with the Skylanders franchise. With regards to Disney Infinity, I don’t think I’ve seen a single article about that game where Skylanders isn’t mentioned.

Back in 2003, Disney gave various licenses to Activision (e.g. Toy Story, Tarzan, Lion King), who gave it to Toys for Bob to create Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure. It used the same Neversoft engine in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. With regards to licenses, Disney owns Star Wars and Marvel. This will indeed create an interesting competitor to Skylanders. I want to compare this to the “Modern Warfare 3 vs. Battlefield 3″ debate, because both products are backed by big publishers and both contain recognizable characters that have generated significant profits for both companies.

What do you think about TFB’s game jams and Disney Infinity?

Links
Forbes – An Interview With ‘Skylanders’ Senior Game Designer Ray West

Let’s Play The Ur-Quan Masters HD Part 1

I recorded the first 30 minutes of myself playing through the beginning of the game. I met with Commander Hayes, powered up his space station, defeated an Ilwrath avenger and got Fwiffo to join my crew.

I didn’t record any commentary for this one. I was eating nachos the whole time, so I wouldn’t have much to say anyways. I hope to upload more videos soon.

Recording UQM at 1280×960 with Fraps is tricky. For some reason it doesn’t recognize that size but 1024×768 is fine, but is not available in UQM. I had to set Fraps to record Aero Desktop, effectively recording everything, even sounds that happen outside the game. So I close anything that could potentially give a notification sound during gameplay.

I saw a speedrun of the entire game in 35 minutes. I’ll try not to get stuck for too long or spend too much time mining.

Watch the video in HD to see the detail of the hi-res images.

Links
Download Ur-Quan Masters HD
Star Control II (DOS) Speedrun – Part 1

Check out Thirty Flights of Loving

Thirty Flights of Loving is the sequel to Blendo Games’ previous game, Gravity Bone. Both games play like a short story where the player is guided on a path, examining different environments and going through a mission. It is a very unique concept and each game can be completed around 15 minutes.

Both games received high ratings and were praised for its simplicity, pacing, variety, quirky humor and colorful blocky visuals.

At first, when I looked at these games, I assumed that it was powered by either the Source engine or some kind of in-house designed code that could render low-polygon objects quickly. However, I realized that this game uses the KMQuake II engine, which is an extended version of Id Tech 2, which powered Quake II, which was released 1992.

What does this have to do with Star Control?

While the game itself has no connection to Star Control, Chris Remo provided the music for this game. Back in 2006, Chris also interviewed Paul Reiche during the release of Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam. Concluding this interview, Chris asked Paul about Star Control and the chances of a possible sequel.

I wrote an article back in 2008 about about Chris Remo’s reply about what he thinks about Star Control, the space exploration genre in general and how it can be successful, despite heavy-hitters such as Call of Duty. Definitely check it out. It was written at a time before I started throwing around the term “video game politics”.

Conclusion

Thirty Flights of Loving is an independent first-person short story that was funded with Kickstarter. It is the sequel to Gravity Bone, which can be downloaded for free. I’m glad to see that independent games continue to get time in the spotlight. Chris Remo provided the music for Thirty Flights of Loving. In addition, Chris maintains the Idle Thumbs podcast and works as a community manager/writer at Double Fine. He is the co-writer of DF’s upcoming game, The Cave, which has also been successfully funded through Kickstarter.

Chris Remo has been active in the gaming industry for eight years and I wish him continued success in the future.

Thirty Flights of Loving is an example that it’s possible to create a game that does not necessarily have to re-invent gaming or use the latest in technology in order to be good.

What do you think about Thirty Flights of Loving?

Links
Chris Remo Loves Star Control
Thirty Flights of Living
Thirty Flights of Living FAQ
Idle Thumbs
Chris Remo’s Blog
Gravity Bone

I-Wei In The Spotlight

Reiche remembers his first interview with Huang as not what he expected. “What I remember was thinking, ‘Boy this guy is really quiet and seemingly mild-mannered for the furious creative genius that I’ve been told he is — because normally creative geniuses are kind of wild.'”
– Matt Leone, “Inside the Skylanders Toy Workshop”, Polygon.com

Polygon released an in-depth interview of I-Wei Huang and Paul Reiche and how they mixed games, electronics and toys to create the Skylanders franchise.

The video is followed by a lengthy text article, which mentions how I-Wei met Paul Reiche through Greg Johnson, creator of ToeJam & Earl:

Unfortunately for Huang, after Toe Jam & Earl 3 shipped, the development team struggled to stay together, but a chance friendship between TJ&E3 creative director Greg Johnson and Reiche landed Huang a follow-up interview with Toys for Bob.

“I was fortunate that my friend Greg Johnson … had found I-Wei from I think a school in San Francisco,” says Reiche. “And he said, ‘Hey, you know, we don’t have a project now, but I-Wei’s the best guy you’ll ever see.’ And I really didn’t know what to expect — that’s pretty high praise.”

Reiche remembers his first interview with Huang as not what he expected. “What I remember was thinking, ‘Boy this guy is really quiet and seemingly mild-mannered for the furious creative genius that I’ve been told he is — because normally creative geniuses are kind of wild.'”

Toys for Bob signed up Huang and put him to work, doing art and animation for licensed games like Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure and Madagascar.

Do you think Skylanders 3 is next?

Links
Polygon – Inside the Skylanders Toy Workshop

Divine Space

“We remember, love, and respect old games such as ‘Star Control‘, ‘Elite’, ‘Master of Orion’, ‘Homeworld’, ‘Space Rangers’. These games were made in the era of lack of complicated special effects or impressive graphics, but they are at least as entertaining as the most up-to-date ones.”
-Dodo Games, Kickstarter.com

Yes, Kickstarter is starting to boom! I recently discovered another project that Star Control fans will definitely enjoy. This a video game called “Divine Space” from Russian developer, Dodo Games. It will be first released for Apple’s iOS/Android and a PC/Mac/Linux version will be released in the future.

Divine Space will be a 3D space action/adventure/RPG that is based on real-world astronomical data, easy-to-learn controls and a real-time combat system. It will also be a form of hard science fiction, meaning the game will stick to accurate scientific facts and details.

Although not too many details have been given to the plot, it is based on a real-life scientific discovery of a star system with the possibility of a planet that can be inhabited by humans:

“The plot of the game begins at one of those stars – Gliese 581, which is very important for modern research programs: scientists have discovered exoplanets there, where alien life is possible.

DARPA, NASA, ESA, Roscosmos – all are looking for ways to colonize such planets. We anticipate that by 2045 the solution will be found, since now, in the world where we live, the rate of technological change doubles every decade. This is where the story of Divine Space begins.”

“…Suffice it to say, together we will look at how humanity might evolve after the establishment of the US colonial base near the exoplanet Gliese 581 g.”

Here are a few things that Star Control fans may find familiar:

  • The player’s ship can be fully customized by mixing and matching various components.
  • Search and gather resources such as precious metals and trade them for profit
  • There is a 3D starmap like Star Control 1. The starmap is searchable!

One thing that I like about this game is that it shares similarities with Star Control, is completely different from other mainstream games such as Mass Effect and gives a unique experience that immerses the player with controlling the ship directly.

If Divine Space reaches its $100,000 goal, the game will be free for everyone to play. Players can pay through microtransactions to play through the game faster with stats bonuses and item discounts. However, it is possible to play through the entire game start to finish without spending a cent and still have a complete experience.

It’s nice to see that Kickstarter is becoming synonymous with “independent development”. I believe it gives smaller projects the opportunity to present themselves online and avoid the cliché announcing your project online and hoping to “get discovered” by a friendly publisher.* Don’t get me wrong, if it works for them, congratulations! It’s just that Kickstarter at least allows people to choose how to contribute.

Dodo Games will be accepting pledges until November 23, 9 AM EST. If you can afford to support them and enjoy Science Fiction, I highly recommend supporting Divine Space. The game will be available to mobile and PC platforms for free and this project can be used as an example that sci-fi games that place an emphasis on spaceship control and customization can be successful. The more independent sci-fi hits are out there, the more likely that publishers will take Star Control seriously.

What do you think of Divine Space and its integration with scientific facts?

* Edit: Speaking of “getting discovered”, did you know that actress Natalie Portman was discovered at a Pizza Parlor at the age of 9?

Links
Anti Danilevski on Twitter
Divine Space Website
SoundCloud – Divine Space Music
Divine Space Kickstarter Page
Dodo Games Kickstarter Profile

Hats Off to Space Command

“I often hear the fans say ‘Why are there so few good science fiction shows on the air?’ and why the good ones so often go south. I can tell you: Frankly, most of the network suits just don’t get it, but you and I do! And thanks to Kickstarter and thanks to you, we don’t need them anymore.”
– Marc Scott Zicree

Introduction

I was looking at a bunch of random YouTube videos and I came across another Kickstarter-related video. This one was about an independently-produced series called “Space Command”. It will reinvent the Canadian 1950s TV show as high-quality, timeless feature-length movies. What makes this stand out from all the other episodic content I’ve seen on Kickstarter is that some of the people working on Space Command have connection to other sci-fi franchises such as Star Trek, Babylon 5, Sliders and Star Wars.

What does this have to do with Star Control?

To be honest, absolutely nothing. However, the shows they have worked on have indirect relationships with Star Control. Even though Star Control isn’t the best-selling game of all time, the plot and dialog is clever and interesting. With the star-studded cast of writers and actors in Space Command, they will also have their own benefit of clever and interesting plot and dialog.

A Confession

To be honest, the last time I have sat down and watched a sci-fi series on TV was for the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. Overall, I liked how it started out; I started to have mixed feelings as the series progressed towards religious themes and the Cylons appeared less frequently. I did not like Caprica, which was cancelled after 18 episodes. I lost interest in Stargate and its spin-offs.

If I had to choose a Star Trek spin-off I like the least, it would be Voyager; I find the recurring plot elements repetitive (e.g. The Borg, holographic rights, a way to go home that involves breaking a rule, etc.). Themes of ethics, family and equal rights were forced into the plot; They tried too hard to be family-friendly or at least stay away from the darker and more serious tone that Deep Space 9 established. However, many of the things they did were for the purposes of keeping budgets low, an issue that has plagued Star Trek since the beginning.

Did you know that the Gorn only appeared three times on TV: once in the classic series, The Animated Series and again in Enterprise? Did you know that early designs for the Borg envisioned them with a more insectoid appearance, consistent with their “hive” and Borg “queen”? Did you know that the portrayal of the Borg differed greatly after The Next Generation episode “Q Who”; they were originally interested in assimilating technology, not lifeforms.

Battleship has excellent CGI. :|

I generally do not watch low-budget science fiction; they either have too much *pew* *pew* (laser beams), cookie-cutter plot about saving the universe or it’s simply a story that takes place in the future with no real science.

The last science fiction movie I watched as of this post was Prometheus. It is a good movie, though it raises more questions than it does answer them. However, Star Control II also did that! :D By doing this, a sequel is undeniable.

So, why did I mention the above? It is because I am genuinely interested in Space Command. Despite the above, I can’t wait to see this movie. Even though the budget is nowhere near what we’re used to in the big screen, it will have the clever writing and skilled actors that are the true elements of good science fiction.

Conclusion

The Kickstarter campaign for Space Command has ended on July 14 with $221,267, exceeding their original $75,000 goal. I haven’t watched the original series. With all of their combined years of experience, this can become something that Star Control fans can enjoy too. I can’t wait to see more.

Check out the site and the concept art.

What do you think of Space Command?

Links
Space Command Kickstarter Page
Space Command Website
Star Command on Twitter

Edit: Correct minor mistakes and provided more accurate info regarding it’s connection to the Canadian TV show.