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

BLOW IT UP!

More posts coming soon… The Kickstarter phenomenon continues to grow and there is so much to talk about, so much to keep track of. News related to “video game politics” is starting to come in at a slow and steady rate and I should have something new stuff coming up.

And a belated congratulations to TFB for the continued success of Skylanders, now a billion-dollar franchise.

Stay tuned.

Mike Matei from Cinemassacre Reviews Pandemonium!

“Overall, the level design is where the game shines. The game designers [Toys for Bob] did an amazing job putting a new spin on stages that could have been easily been ‘run of the mill’. To put it simply, this game is just fun. I did get frustrated here amd there, but that’s how you know, because it’s providing you with a real challenge. If you’re a fan of platform games, then give Pandemonium a chance for its inspired level design.”
– Mike Matei

Check out this review of Pandemonium, a game created by Toys for Bob while working for Crystal Dynamics. Other TFB created for Crystal Dynamics include The Horde and of course, Star Control II.

Mike Matei is a producer at Cinemassacre, the studio that brought us the Angry Video Game Nerd, starring Mike’s longtime friend, James Rolfe. Mike is a big part in setting up each episode and is responsible for the title cards of each episode; some of his art has been auctioned on eBay. He has also appeared in the show as various characters such as The Joker in the Batman review. In addition, he also creates videos about video game tips, glitches and reviews of obscure video games.

What do you think of this review?

Links
Pandemonium! PS1 Review by Mike Matei
Cinemassacre Website
Mike Matei’s Twitter

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)

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

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

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