Matt Chat 24: Star Control II and the Spacewar Legacy

"Covering one of the best action strategy science fictions of all time: Star Control II, The Ur‐Quan Masters!"
‐ Matt Barton, Matt Chat 24

Matt Chat reviews classic video games for old platforms every week. It is hosted by Matt Barton, an English professor at St. Cloud University. He has written two books about video games: Dungeons and Desktops and Vintage Games.

Matt talks about Star Control’s influences and similar games such as Spacewar, Traveller, Elite and Starflight, a game with a strong legacy of its own.  Starflight was created by Greg Johnson, who is a friend of Paul Reiche and Fred Ford.  Greg also created ToeJam & Earl, where Paul Reiche is credited under “Invaluable Help”.  After talking about various influences and Star Control 1, he talks more in detail about how Star Control II evolved as a sequel with alien races, great dialog and diverse combat.

After watching the video, I wrote to Matt about how he feels about Toys for Bob wanting to make a new Star Control game. Here’s what he had to say:

Hi, Anthony. I've heard a lot about the FOSS Ur‐Quan masters, but YouTube limits me to only 10 minutes! Not nearly enough time to talk about everything I wanted to, such as the connection to the earlier Archon and Mail Order Monsters.

In any case, I think a new Star Control (done right) would be an almost certain hit. It is still widely regarded as an excellent game, and would probably work well as a mobile game (iPhone or DS) as well as a big release. The networking capabilities would certainly open up some interesting possibilities for scenarios or campaigns like Star Control I had. It'd be really neat to see co‐op dog fights, with players on a team taking on AI or players from another team. Just imagine if they had to carefully work together, complementing or substituting for each other's abilities.

It’s always great to see people support a new Star Control game. I remember reading threads on the UQM forums about porting The Ur-Quan Masters to the iPhone and the DS. I don’t have an iPhone, so I would love to see UQM on the DS. I know there is a version for the PSP, but I cannot softmod my PSP at the moment and I heard that it’s not exactly “stable”. There is a large market on the iPhone and millions of people continue to buy apps and the DS remains a hot-selling item. There is still the complicated legal issue of Atari owning the title “Star Control” and I hope that someday it will be resolved in time for a new Star Control game.  I would love to see UQM on Xbox Live, which has been mentioned in forums.  If there are ports of Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Perfect Dark (currently TBA), Banjo Kazooie, Duke Nukem, Teenage Mutant Turtles and The Secret of Monkey Island, I’m sure there’s room for Star Control II.  The challenge would be promoting the game and making sure it gets good sales and reviews as a port.

Many of these ports have been done by other developers or an internal department within the company that made the original game.  Theoretically, Toys for Bob could appoint a trusted developer to port Star Control II and label it as “The Ur-Quan Masters”, but there are many factors that make this very complicated.  Personally, I would feel better buying a Star Control port where TFB gets some kind of profit from it.

Thanks to Matt Barton for talking about Star Control and taking the time to write back to me.

Armchair Arcade
Matt Chat 24 Video HD
UQM Forums: iPhone Version?
UQM Forums: Initial DS Port – Help Wanted!

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