AHH! Madagascar Kartz!

I was on GameTrailers.com, looking at trailers for upcoming games.  I saw a new addition to a familiar licensed video game series: Madagascar Kartz.

The first thing I thought was “Could this be what Toys for Bob has been working on since their last announcement?”  They did the first 2 Madagascar games which were mildly successful due to its family appeal.  It would only be logical for Activision to choose Toys for Bob for this installment.

Although no developer is credited in the above trailer, I am very certain that the name “Bob” appearing near the end of the trailer is a reference to Toys for Bob:

Bob... as in Toys for Bob?
Bob… as in Toys for Bob?

Other than a Madagascar game, I even considered the slightest chance that TFB may be working on a completely different IP.  This is the first announcement of Madagascar Kartz.  According to Kotaku.com, it will be released October 27 for Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS.

So, what does this mean for us?  After their game is released, they’ll discuss the next project with Activision, thus creating another mystery about what they’re working on next.  No matter how much time passes by, I still think of Star Control.  I like seeing it pop up in news, especially when new games come out that have slight similarities to Star Control.  Hopefully we’ll get more insight from TFB when a news update pops up on their website.  Who knows what will happen next?

What do you think?

UPDATE: Toys for Bob did not make Madagascar Kartz.

Kotaku: Madagascar Kartz Combines Madagascar, Kartz

If any game deserves an HD remake...

(Video removed)
Skip to 7:22

Then there's Star Control II, which is fantastic!  It combines elements of RPGs, real‐time strategy and shooters and it's honestly one of the best games I have ever played.  If any game deserves an HD remake, it's this one!
‐ Eliot Hagen, Elder‐Geek Gaming Show

I went through my daily routine of watching various video game trailers when I noticed that there was a video about the 3DO by Elder-Geek, an independent video game media website. It highlighted the 3DO and its downfall. What surprised me about this video is that Eliot mentioned Star Control II and that it deserves an HD remake.

Many of the 3DO videos I see rarely mention Star Control or even a desire for a remake/sequel.  A remake of Star Control II has been mentioned many times such as an Xbox Live Arcade remake.  If there was an HD remake, I would definitely get it.  With remakes of Call of Duty, A Boy and His Blob, Earthworm Jim, Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark, I’d love to see Star Control II added to the list.  It’s obvious that video game remakes are becoming a trend and I don’t see why there can’t be a remake just because Star Control didn’t achieve skyrocketing sales.

Thanks Eliot for taking the time to mention Star Control II in your video.

Elder-Geek Gaming Show
Top 5 3DO Games (Star Control II is at #2)

John Graham: "Star Control III sounds like it could be pretty sweet"

Wolfire Games is a very fascinating independent game developer; they promote and publish their own games, utilize social networking to spread messages, create their games from the ground up, utilize impressive features (dynamic combat, ragdoll physics, weather, etc.), encourages fans to contact them and currently maintain a strong fan base of their own.  In addition, they retain 100% of their sales, which is enough to work on their current game:  Overgrowth.  They have a very interesting business model for Overgrowth where users pay for the game in full and have access to weekly builds to play with.

They have a great sense of humor, are very communicative and make it clear that they listen to their fans and just about anyone with questions.  With all this in mind, I decided to write them a letter about Star Control.  I received a reply from John Graham:

Hey Anthony,

Thank you very much for your support.  It means a lot to us to hear that you have been with us from the beginning and are enjoying our open development process.

I hadn't actually heard of Toys For Bob until you mentioned them but having visited their site they seem to be fairly accomplished developers.  You are raising the age old question in this email.  Is it better to build your own IP or work on someone else's?

Having just heard Dan Connors, the CEO of Telltale games, speak at the IGDA meeting in San Francisco, he would tell you that using established IP's is a lot safer than rolling your own.  Telltale has become pretty huge off of the borrowed IP strategy and you'll notice that a substantial portion of mainstream games end up being sequels these days.  So I think most people would say that the immediate profits lie in using established IP's.

If our fearless lead programmer, David Rosen, had wanted to maximize his revenue in the short term by making games, he would be working for a big company like Crytek right now.  Instead, he created Wolfire where he could retain creative control, and we're working more than full time on Overgrowth.  It's a lot of work and arguably high risk but it's also a lot more fun.

We haven't tried the guns for hire approach yet.  Thanks to the continuing support of Lugaru sales, preorders we should be able to last well through Overgrowth.  I would guess though that a company could only do so much 3rd party IP work in a row without itching to make a go at their own projects.  There's no easy answer, but our attitude at Wolfire has always been to just go for it. Star Control III sounds like it could be pretty sweet and with the rise in online distribution, maybe TFB doesn't need a publisher.

Thanks again for your interest in Wolfire.  Feel free to follow up with me on an IM program sometime if you have more questions for us.  If you want to help us spread the word please subscribe to our YouTube channel and Facebook page.

John Graham
Wolfire Games

Regarding TFB publishing their own Star Control game, I don’t hear about much developers publishing their own games.  For example, when Activision turned id Software down for their game Rage, Electronic Arts took over as publisher.  Even first-party games are developed by one company, then published by a console company (e.g. Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony).

Thank you John for taking the time to write back to me and I wish you success with Overgrowth.

Wolfire Games

Fun Comes First: An Interview with Paul Reiche III in 1992

I’ve been trying to get into Twitter lately.  Many popular people and companies have started using it to post brief thoughts and messages about upcoming events.  I found the search function and started to search for random things.  Eventually, I started to search for Star Control related things.  I found a quote from Paul Reiche III that I’ve never seen before:

A good game has to have a fun core, which is a one‐sentence description of why it's fun.
‐ Paul Reiche III

It sounded so simple.  After spending a while searching for it, I finally discovered where this quote originated:  A computer magazine called COMPUTE!, January 1992, Issue 137.  The article is “Principles of Good Game Design” by Heidi E. Aycock.  In addition to Paul, Dave Jones (Lemmings), Roberta Williams (King’s Quest), Richard Garriott (Ultima) and Dan Bunten (M.U.L.E.) were also interviewed.

Besides looking to the real world for standards of fun, Reiche examines successful games of the past. His latest release, Star Control, was inspired by an old 8-bit Atari game called Star Raiders. Look at the graphics of Star Raiders and you'll smugly roll your eyes. But the game was great fun back then, and it's still fun today. "I think those games are overlooked as a source for fundamental game design," says Reiche.

While I was looking on Twitter, Arianna discovered this blog and decided to add a tweet with a link to Star Controller:


I take it as a compliment.  It’s funny too.  I’m just glad that she found the blog and posted a link to it.  Many people question why Twitter is relevant with its 140-character limit micro-blog format.  One interesting feature of Twitter is its ability to track phrases that are mentioned very frequently in messages and display them as “trends”.  Someday, when Toys for Bob gets that chance to make a new Star Control game, I’d love to make an attempt that turning “Star Control” into one of these trends.  I have made a Twitter page for Star Controller and at the moment and it is barely updated.  If any Star Control fans have any thoughts about Twitter, I’d love to hear it.

In conclusion, check out the article.  It’s just over 17 years old and I think this is the oldest interview I’ve seen that is related to Star Control or Paul Reiche.

Principles of Good Game Design
Arianna’s Tweet
Star Controller on Twitter

Infinite Space Compared to Star Control II

Infinite Space is a Science Fiction Role Playing Game exclusively for the Nintendo DS.  It is already available in Japan and the release dates for Europe and North America have been scheduled for Spring of 2010.  I have been interested in this game for a long time.  There are some anime short videos that have been released online; most of them are in Japanese and a few are in English.  From my first impressions, I can tell that it will be a very epic sci-fi RPG that will revolve more around space ships.

The player will have control of a spaceship and be able to customize the ship’s design and its crew.  Two players will be able to fight each other over local wi-fi.

I have always thought of similarities with Star Control when I see this game.  There are sci-fi games out there and there are very few where the player can customize the ship, traverse space and engage in ship combat.  Kat Bailey wrote an article on 1UP’s RPG Blog titled “The Monthly Grind: Infinite Space, Dragon Quest and Star Control II”.  The Monthly Grind refers to articles that are dedicated to a specific RPG for a month, so for September, the 1UP RPG blog will have multiple articles about Infinite Space.

Here are a few quotes from Kim comparing Infinite Space to Star Control II:

Infinite Space and Star Control II actually have quite a bit in common. Both games feature a "flagship" for the protagonist, encourage players to build their own fleets and emphasize interaction with non-player characters and various planets. But that's where the similarities end, and the differences between western and Japanese design philosphies (sic) begin.
Basically, I'm wondering if there shouldn't be more to the experience than jumping from planet to find whoever it is I need to advance the story, followed by some starship customization and a few battles with random pirates. If anything, the team over at Platinum had the perfect template in Star Control. And trust me, there's nothing wrong with another Star Control.

It is obvious that Infinite Space is nothing like Star Control itself.  They do have some elements in common and I am glad that there is at least starship adventure game emerging in mainstream games.  I certainly hope that it’s not the last.  If Infinite Space proves to be a successful game, it should serve as solid evidence that a new Star Control game can be just as successful.  It’s definitely on my wishlist and I would be very surprised if reviewers drew their own comparisons to Star Control.

The Monthly Grind: Infinite Space, Dragon Quest  and Star Control II

That Ur-Quan Master

It’s finally here and on time.  The first page of Eth’s “That Ur-Quan Master”.  This is not a solo comic; Eth worked with Jesse Dew, who provided penciling and inking for the comic.

Each page is a continuation of a story of a Dreadnought captain during the Ur-Quan Conflict before Star Control II.

In my previous post, I wondered what the Ur-Quan is holding in its tentacles.  When I read the first page of TUQM, it hit me:  It’s the scepter that the Ur-Quan holds in the tiny animation frames during melee combat in Star Control.  When the player launches fighters, it quickly holds the scepter horizontally with two tentacles.

The scepter gets swapped with a buzzing pink wand device that confuses the Ur-Quan captain, resulting in not being able to launch a fighter.  It’s an interesting idea that the scepter could be used to directly control Ur-Quan fighters instead of just representing a symbol of authority.

Announcing a new weekly SC‐related webcomic: That Ur‐Quan Master by Ethan Fleischer and Jesse Dew.  Follow the story of the lowest‐ranked battle thralls aboard a Dreadnought during the Ur‐Quan Conflict.

A.  Fascinating alien cuisine.
B.  Practical jokes perpetrated against the most dangerous sentient species known.
C.  Substance abuse among the stars.  And,
D.  A plethora of absurd haberdashery.
‐ Eth

If anyone is curious about what “a plethora of absurd haberdashery” is , it is an excessive amount of sewing materials such as threads, needles and buttons. :D

Add That Ur-Quan Master to your bookmarks and check the website next week to see what happens next. Keep up the good work, Eth and Jesse.

That Ur-Quan Master
SCDB: That Ur-Quan Master #1
New Star Control Webcomic: That Ur-Quan Master

Eth's Comic Coming Soon

Eth's last preview

On September 4, Eth (Ethan Fleischer) posted his final preview frame and told everyone on SCDB that his comic would launch in a week.  Tomorrow, it will be one week, so hopefully we should see some more updates sometime soon.

Although I have no idea what the plot will be for this comic, I’ll post some observations that readers may find interesting:

  • Different races boarding each other ships.  For example, an Umgah on a VUX Intruder.
  • There is an image of an Ilwrath throwing a dead Spathi into a furnace with an Umgah shouting "WAIT!"  Could it be a Druuge Mauler furnace?
  • There is an image of a human talking to a Spathi wearing a red cap.  The comic involves humans other than The Captain?  Maybe an encounter with the The Safe Ones (Spathi High Council)?
  • What is the green Ur-Quan holding in the first picture?  Could it be an excruciator, a device that would cause the Dnyarri great pain to prevent them from controlling their minds?
  • When the Ilwrath says "Is this passing strange", what is he talking about?  What happened to the Umgah's face?  Who went through the door on the right?

I love seeing Star Control art and I can’t wait to see the comic in its complete form.  In addition to drawing, Eth also has experience in animation.  He has a Star Control website titled “Famous Battles of the Ur-Quan Conflict”.  It contains screenshots from other ports of the first Star Control with a plot written by Eth from the perspective of an Earth historian named Eth Erasmus Blackthorne.

I can’t wait to see more.  Thanks Eth for taking the time to share your comic with the world.

It’s Coming…
Famous Battles of the Ur-Quan Conflict

Groombridge Log - Prologue

The first issue Groombridge Log is finally here!  Check it out!


The prologue covers events that take place before, during and after Star Control I and touches the beginning of Star Control II.

The comic begins with describing a nuclear war that takes place in the near future and and the creation and rise of the Androsynth, a slave race of human clones with genetically enhanced speed, strength and intelligence.  In the comic, a female Androsynth appears.  There was a post on the UQM forums quoting Paul Reiche regarding the Androsynth culture and genders:

Hi Maria,

Good question!  My initial intention was that, yes, they were gay, or more properly, strictly monosexual.  About the time Fred and I were working on Star Control II, I had my first friendships with openly gay folks.  It always has felt good to me to discard a prejudice and I hoped to share that opportunity in teeny‐weeny little way with the people who played my games.  BUT, when I shared this notion with our publisher, some folks took this to mean that they should use stereotypes for humor, as for instance the "fashion designers of space" crap that ended‐up in the manual.  I feel like I should have been more courageous getting that comment edited out and if it offended anyone, I feel really bad about that.

Hopefully as the future unfolds, we will find our species more accepting of others and more appreciative of individual expression... either that or we should all get jetpacks.  I'm cool either way.


‐ Paul Reiche

Ps.  By the way, now I am not so sure that all the Androsynth are male.  I imagine they might descend from a few clonal lines, so I expect there would be both male and female and perhaps some neutrals.

Groombridge Log does a great job at pointing out how significant the Androsynth are in the timeline and shows that they have a mind of their own.  The Guardian ship is very powerful and has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses just like every other ship.  Their disappearance remains a mystery and has received various theories involving the Orz, “mysterious fingers” and even the possibility that some other Quasispace race was involved.  Their superior genetic enhancements, hatred of humans and unanswered questions make them a very interesting and different race.  The whereabouts Androsynth is probably one of the most desired questions to be answered in a sequel to Star Control II.

One great idea they used for this comic was using the starmap with arrows to show off how the different races were moving around in space; the boundary circles of Star Control II also moved around as time passed by. For example, when the player continues to check the starmap, he or she will notice certain events such as the Pkunk moving towards the Yehat and the conflict between the Ur-Quan Kzer-Za and Kohr-Ah. It gave the impression of a tactical report.

I asked Tiberian a few questions about Prologue:

  1. What did you use to create the comic (materials, software, etc.)? I draw the pages with pencil and paper. One page is one A4. Then I scan the sketch and send it to Glory Device, who draws the black outlines over the sketches. I don't know what program he uses but I know he has a graphic tablet which he got for this project. When he has "inked" the page, he sends it back to me and I open it in Photoshop. Then I use the basic colouring tools to finish the page. I also have a graphic tablet which I use in the colouring. Some panels are random photos found from the internet with some Photoshop filters on them.I have to note that I don't like the colouring part. I'm not very good at using the tools and I don't find it very enjoyable. I would just want to focus on drawing the sketches. So if anyone is skilled and interested in joining the project as a "colourer" (does that word exist?) I'd be happy to let him try.
  2. What are your favorite drawings in the comic and why? I like the Star Control logo. I created it before I had started this project.The Androsynth in the last panel of the second page (or third page in the index) turned out really well. It is a very emotional panel. The shape of the head is from the cover of my old webcomic's third chapter: http://good-influence.net/strips/76The exploding spacecraft on the third (fourth) page is also one of my favorites. The explosion in the background is from a random image I found from google, but it blends well with the ship. When starting to colour that panel I was afraid that the beam wouldn't look good. There was originally a Star Control logo in the side of that ship, below the cockpit, but it looked better without it.On the eighth (ninth) page the Ur-Quan and Spathi are the comical relief of the prologue, which is quite serious and "heavy" with so much text. Someone might notice that I used one of Zarla's drawings as reference for the Spathi on the right. I guess this is my favorite panel.The last panel of the eleventh (twelveth) page is a "population centre" traffic sign at least in Finland. I don't know if it is used in other countries. I think the flames make a really good atmosphere. Although some of the "flame-bits" look a bit too much like hearts.One last note from the panels: The one on the second last page with the Syreen, Arilou, Shofixti and Yehat. I made myself a wallpaper version of this panel. When I had already sent the sketch from this page to Glory Device, I noticed that I had completely forgotten about the Arilou. So I added the Arilou later and sent Glory Device a fixed version. He then inked the old version by accident and sent me the one without the Arilou. So I had to draw the Arilou on my tablet without a sketch to follow. This part I did not enjoy.
  3. In the last page of Groombridge Log, is the character on the right Commander Hayes? Yes. I am happy to hear that he bears at least some resemblance.
  4. What events in the Star Control storyline interest you the most and why? Like many of the fans, I specifically like the Androsynth-story. Exploring the ruins is really spooky. Their fate goes beyond the boundaries of our known universe. It shows the limitations of human imagination (although not Fred and Paul's limitation). I hope I can continue this project for so long that I can get into the Androsynth's situation.
  5. Is there anything we can expect to see in future comics? You can expect to see a certain ship approaching the starbase.I'd like to point out that the Groombridge Log you are seeing now is only the prologue chapter. I have already finished the first version of the script for the first chapter. It still needs some tuning, but the plot is clear. It will take a lot of time to finish the chapter so don't hold your breath yet. I will keep the community informed on the progress.

It’s a great comic and I would love to see more. It stays very close to the storyline and makes me want to play through Star Control 1.  The characters are very easy to recognize and the drawings and coloring is excellent. I’m glad that there was no yellow boxes behind the text because it would make the background images more difficult to see. Ethan is also working on a comic of his own and I can’t wait to see that too. Fan art contributions are always awesome and really show how strong the fan base is; anybody can write about how awesome Star Control is and how we deserve a new one and a picture will always grab more attention.

Thanks Tiberian and Glory Device for working on the Groombridge Log.  We’re excited to see more of your great work.  Take your time! :D

Groombridge Log - Prologue
Star Control Comic Thread
Eth: It’s coming… (EDIT: No lie.)
Interesting Paul Reiche III Revelation

Calling All Europeans

A few days ago, Arianna Reiche (daughter of the great Paul Reiche), posted on the UQM forums asking fans in Europe what their favorite gaming blogs and websites are.  She stated that it is for “VERY exciting research purposes”:

Hi all

This is very cheeky but for some VERY exciting research purposes, I was wondering if any SC fans living in the EU can tell me their favourite regional gaming blogs and sites...for if you're French, what's the French gaming site or blog you frequent, etc.

I can only repay you in the form of perhaps one day regaling you with the story of recording the dialogue for the SC2 end sequence...hah.


Arianna Reiche

If anyone’s wondering, here is the definition of “regaling”:

regaling –verb (used with object) 1. to entertain lavishly or agreeably; delight. 2. to entertain with choice food or drink. - Dictionary.com

Since I live in Canada, I can’t contribute to her research.  If there are any fans out there who has the time to post their favorite gaming sites, feel free to reply to Arianna’s post to contribute to her “exciting research”.

The main reason why I’m mentioning this is because it’s not every day we get some kind of opportunity to hear from someone with a direct connection to Star Control.  It would be great to read new “behind the scenes” information behind Star Control II.  Arianna’s brother, Devin, provided the voices of one of the grandchildren during the final scene.  It makes me wonder where those voice actors are now apart from the ones who are working at Toys for Bob.

A few months ago, Arianna has made answered a question regarding the other voice actors for Star Control II:

Another question: I'd imagine that the SC2 developing group was pretty close‐knit. Maybe I'm wrong. Did you, or your family, have much contact with the other voice actors in the game? If so, were some of them as strange as the characters they portray?

Again, I was pretty dang young for most of the production of SC2 so this is all based on what I've heard from dad Fred etc about the production, but most of the voice actors were actually developers (obviously dad was a few characters) and their friends. I think close‐knit doesn't even cover it; the whole production was based around trusted workers and friends and, of course, family members.
‐ Arianna Reiche

Arianna is a contributor to Vice Magazine a magazine geared towards independent and youth culture.  She also has her own blog and even her own Twitter page.

All Eu/NZ/Australia SC fans (UQM)
All Eu/NZ/Australia SC fans (SCDB)
A Reiche Child
Arianna’s Twitter

Admiral ZEX Reborn in Clay

Admiral ZEXZarla is a big fan of Star Control and has created many images based on Star Control II. Her most favorite character is Admiral ZEX, a VUX with a passion for collecting grotesque creatures who asked the Captain to capture the VUX beast in exchange of the Shofixti Maidens only to turn against him and attempt to capture him instead.  For her birthday, she received a clay sculpture of ZEX from her friend, MoroNoKimi:


Happy Birthday ~zarla! I hope you like him! I worked like mad to get him done in time.

He was mailed and is now in Zarla's possession :D
Go here for some pictures of him in his new home! [link]

ZEX is from Star Control 2.

Made from sculpey clay. The eye was painted with gouache and was then coated in clear varnish. The tongue was also varnished to make it shiny.

There are a few imperfections but overall I'm very pleased. I almost think I'm better at making things with sculpey than I am at drawing.

- MoroNoKimi

It’s a very beautiful sculpture of ZEX; it’s bright, colorful and the tentacles look smooth and organic.  I remember when I was in Grade 11, I had an art class and we learned how to sculpt clay and bake it at the correct temperature to harden it.  I also learned how to use toothpicks to make things more stable and make imprints and patterns on the surface.  Although what I made in my art class wasn’t very impressive, I certainly understand the work MoroNoKimi put into sculpting Admiral ZEX and it was well worth it.  It’s very awesome!

Here are some photos that Zarla has taken and posted on her blog:


Thank you Zarla for taking the time to share your new present with the world and thank you MoroNoKimi for taking the time to create the ZEX sculpture.

“If I’m thinking of the right guy” by Zarla
Admiral ZEX sculpture on DeviantArt
Admiral ZEX Plushy