I Wasn't Expecting This

Note: Although many fans, including myself, do not consider their “Star Control 3” canon, we have nothing against Legend Entertainment personally. Like Toys for Bob, Legend Entertainment also worked hard to keep food on the table and have worked on other quality titles such as Unreal II: The Awakening.

I was looking for something interesting stuff to get on eBay when I discovered something strange:  An official strategy guide for Legend Entertainment’s, “Star Control 3” (shudder), published by Prima Publishing.  Of course, this is NOT the true sequel to Star Control 2.

This guide is written by Daniel Greenberg, who also provided game’s script, dialog, voice direction, programming and game design.  He has also worked on other games such as Crysis, The Lord of the Rings Online and the upcoming game, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars.

So, why am I writing about this?  While the strategy contains the walkthrough of the game itself, there are chapters at the beginning and the end that talk about their experience with animatronics and even gives a shout-out to Paul Reiche III, Fred Ford and Greg Johnson.  Other than the walkthrough, these additional chapters are:

Here are some interesting things I noticed: Many people are mentioned in the dedication, including the Star Control fanbase itself:

“To those highly active Star Control fans whose years of letters, e-mail, poll answers, Web pages, newsgroup arguments, online forums, and personal conversations at convention gave us the feedback, tips, recommendations, and utterly unreasonable demands we needed. You helped shape the direction and mold the final form of Star Control 3.”

Has anyone ever wrote to Legend Entertainment about Star Control 3 during its development? I don’t want to point the finger at anyone; I’m just saying that I don’t think their design for the game (e.g. animatronics, Precursor hippos, etc.) could have been inspired by fan letters.

There were other studios that collaborated with Legend on this game:

  • SOTA/FX (State of the Art FX) - Animatronics
  • Panoptic Imaging - 3D images
  • Absolute Pitch - Audio
  • Flite Three - Video Post-Production

Paul Reiche, Fred Ford and Greg Johnson are mentioned in the dedication:

And last but not least, to Fred Ford, Paul Reiche III, and Greg Johnson for starting it all. It's been a privilege, guys.

The Forward mentions that Paul and Fred were simply “unavailable” to work on the third game:

“When Accolade decided to do Star Control 3, I jumped at the chance to produce it. But Paul and Fred were unavailable to work on the project and I knew it would take a great crew of people to make Star Control 3 a reality.”

It is generally believed that TFB did not agree Accolade’s terms for SC3. They have also worked several overtime hours on Star Control 2, some of which they were not compensated for.

In The Making of Star Control 3, Daniel states “We wanted to remain true to Star Control 2, which we both loved playing, but we also wanted to go in new directions.” Well, they certainly took it in “new directions” all right.

Then he mentions:

In doing our basic game research, we talked to fans and plowed through numerous online discussion groups. (If you contributed to the SC2 discussions, you may have contributed to SC3.) Accolade even put out a questionnaire. The responses we got varied as widely as the races themselves, but overall they confirmed our opinions.

Again, does anyone remember any discussions or questionnaires? I find this hard to believe, but I really have no way of proving this. I am under the impression that no feedback from the fans were collected.

In the Fun Facts about SC3 section, there are some Star Control fansites listed.  One of them is an old link to Pages of Now and Forever.  Another site is listed as “The Star Control Saga” with “Comprehensive information on ships and races”.  The archived site on archive.org shows a webpage called “Unabashed Crabbiness about Star Control III” which criticizes SC3.

I was surprised to see  that Legend Entertainment’s game had additional info about what was done behind the scenes.  It even notes that it tries to keep voice distortions to a minimum.  I still do not consider Legend’s game part of the canon established by TFB.  I would like to reiterate that nothing negative is being directed towards anyone at Legend Entertainment; it’s just that this particular game did not meet our expectations.  The animatronic puppets had limited motion and the did not look interesting enough; many of them are simply boxes or a wall.  It is obvious that lots of work and effort was put into this project.  It’s just that it wasn’t the sequel we were dreaming of and we really wished that TFB was involved in it.  I actually never heard of this game until I saw it on star-control.com many years ago back in my college days.  It shows that TFB’s unique and passionate style of game development contributes to the awesomeness of Star Control that we all know and love.

Also, I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning discussions with Legend, fan feedback or any form of communication between fans and Legend Entertainment during development.  However, this is something that game developers and publishers are using to promote their games; for example, companies use social media to track how people react to trailers and gameplay videos.  Many events such as E3 and GDC exist for the sole purpose of showing off games, interviews and collecting data on what people think of it.

The above chapters are worth checking out for anyone who wants to know a little bit more about Legend’s attempt to continue the Star Control universe.

What do you think?

Unabashed Crabbiness about Star Control III (archived)
Accolade’s SC3 page (archived)
Star-Control - Star Control 3
Daniel Greenberg’s Website

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