Let's Play UQM 32 - Nerdy Space Lovin'

Redpowervan continues his Let’s Play videos of UQM and encounters the Ur-Quan, helps the Syreen have revenge on the Mycon and witnesses the infamous black-screen love scene.  His reaction and commentary are hilarious.

Newcomers to the Ur-Quan Masters may feel stuck at this part of the game where they must convince the Mycon to go to Organon.  They do not mention the location of their homeworld in the 3DO version and since UQM is based on the 3DO source code, it also lacks this important piece of information.

"You are actually asking on the wrong planet. There is a remark by the Mycon on Beta Brahe in the PC version of Star Control II which clarified this, but as no speech was recorded for it for the 3DO, it is also missing from The Ur‐Quan Masters."
‐ UQM Wiki, Star Control II Gameplay FAQ

I remember there was a discussion on the UQM forums about whether or not the text should be added in with no speech, make custom speech or give the option to switch to the PC dialog which didn’t have this discrepancy.

I suddenly remembered some interesting things Paul Reiche said about the Syreen:

"Recording the dialog for the Syreen was one of the most awkward experiences in my adult life.  She [Madeline Wild] as the parent of one of my kid's friends (I think) and we were alone in the office.  She was quite professional, but I kept blushing and coughing."

"The Syreen went through a bit of a transformation from SC1 to SC2. At first they were space succubi (how DO you spell that). In SC2 I felt compelled to give them a lot more 'reason' to act the way they do."

"Syreen song = glass of white wine vs. Dynarri compulsion = intravenous lab alcohol+horse tranquilizer"
‐ Paul Reiche, June 13 2007 IRC Chat

In this video, the captain’s name is Internet and the flagship is called Youtubes.  So, in other words, he is Captain Internet of the starship Youtubes.  He’s considering changing the names every now and then.  If you have any suggestions of what the names could be if he wants to change them, feel free to send him your choices in a private message to his Youtube account, Redpowervan.

Zenzmurfy.com is Here!


A week ago, I got a message from Zenzmurfy regarding his transition from his old tripod site to the brand new Zenzmurfy.com.  This means that his website is easier to reach and he has full control over what he wants in his website without having an annoying ad in the corner of every page.  It looks similar to his tripod site and he has plans on changing it up and adding more stuff in the future.

I’m definitely looking forward to see what he’ll add next to his website.  Fan art is always great to see and it’s amazing how a person’s artistic style can evolve over time.

Check it out: Zenzmurfy Fan-O-Rama

Jam Enslaver Reviews Star Control II

Jam Enslaver (anagram of James Valner) is a well-respected member of the NooBTooB community.  He has made several reviews for games on Xbox Live Arcade, Nintendo’s Virtual Console, Playstation Network and even older consoles.  Some of these videos have been featured on episodes of NooBTooB.  So I was very surprised when he put this review together for Star Control II.

His only criticism of the game is the combat due to the fact that  it can be difficult to control at times and it can be easier to run away from enemies.  This is true, especially for avoiding those probes at the start of the game until you have enough fuel to speak to the Slylandro or at least upgrade the flagship’s weapons to take them down easily.  The combat portion of the game is still lots of fun for two human players.  It’s also great for people who want to master their ship-fighting skills or want to know how each ship can be used to take down other ships specifically.

It’s a really nice interview.  I like how he pointed out the many changes from the first Star Control by showing off the visuals, music, plot and character dialog.  Thanks Jam Enslaver.

Link: James’ Ivory Tower blog

UQM called one of "10 games for your MacBook"

I was reading through a bunch of blogs when I came across an article by Jenn Frank titled “Digital Download Korner: 10 games for your MacBook”:

"Look, I realize that Mac gaming is, on the whole, an oxymoron, like 'jumbo shrimp,' 'diet cake,' and 'libertarian.' And if you want to play on your Apple laptop, why, you're even worse off—seemingly relegated to ports, casuals, freebies, and castoffs. Until recently, even Apple admitted you were better off dual‐booting into XP."
‐ Jenn Frank

Jenn Frank has been involved in video jame journalism since 2005.  She has worked at Electronic Gaming Monthly as a reviewer and 1UP.com as a community manager.  Jenn considers the Atari 2600, Game Boy Micro and the iPhone viable game consoles.

Here’s what she had to say about The Ur-Quan Masters:

"Fans remember Star Control II: The Ur‐Quan Masters as one of the finest space adventure‐strategy games around (it sounds like a specialized genre, but it’s actually among the broadest and oldest). Initially released in 1992, Ur‐Quan Masters enjoyed a more recent renaissance when its creators loosed the original 3DO code for hobbyist developers to do with as they would. The result: a much more modern game—complete with multiplayer!—that runs brilliantly on almost every system and OS."
‐ Jenn Frank

I’m amazed that she pointed out that it’s “one of the finest space adventure-strategy games around”.  I can never come up with a perfect answer that describe the genres that Star Control II covers.  I once described it as a “Sci-Fi/Action/Adventure/RPG/Strategy/Space Combat” which is very long, but I’m trying to say that Star Control does such a great job at blending genres in such a way that it’s hard to split it apart into seperate pieces.

Even though it’s not a “top 10” list, I’m glad that The Ur-Quan Masters was listed with other great games I’ve played before such as StarCraft, World of Goo and Cave Story.  At the end of the article, Jenn lists some games that “didn’t make the cut” which includes the Mac port of Spore.  This reminded me of an article I wrote a long time ago where I write about various people referring to Star Control II when reviewing Spore.

I’m really glad that TFB released the 3DO source code to the community.  Without it, Star Control wouldn’t be known for it’s strong “cult” status and I probably would have been stuck playing Star Control II on DOSBox, unaware of spoken dialog and remixed music.  The only reason why I know the 3DO even exists is because I found out Star Control II was on it.

Thanks Jenn for adding UQM to your list.

Pkunk's Not Dead

Audiosurf is a very interesting rhythm game because it generates levels based on whatever audio file is selected.  This means that my entire music collection can easily turn into levels that I can play in.  In my opinion, the level generation engine is excellent and does more than track bass and drum snares.  It can create distinct levels with various block layouts, bumps, hills, valleys and twists.  It's one of my favorite independent games and anyone with a music collection would love it.  I have a fairly fast computer, so I set the graphic settings to "Premium" so it has more visual effects shown than other people who leave it at the "Normal" setting.

So I decided to play some Star Control music and it turned out to be a very nice ride.  This is the Precursors remix which can be heard in The Ur-Quan Masters if the remix pack is installed.

The Precursors is a group of 4 skilled musicians who formed together to create the remixes when Toys for Bob released the 3DO source code:

"Riku Nuottajärvi got the idea for remixing all of the 69 Star Control 2 songs for the remake – but the project just looked too big for one composer to do alone. Toys For Bob was really interested in Riku’s idea for bringing all of the music to the "new age" – so they asked him to manage the project and invite people from the fan community to join the remixing project."
- Precursors, The Story so Far

I didn't even realize that there were as many as 69 songs in the Star Control soundtrack until I read that.  It's been years since UQM Remix Pack 3 and still no word of the fouth pack, The  New Alliance of Free Stars.  The are additional remixes on the Precursors website, but they are not in a zip format that can be used as an addon for UQM and other themes such as the Syreen have not yet been remixed.

Since we're on the subject of remixes, our friend Shiver made a thread on the UQM forum about someone named TheMisterCat who also made a few remixes, which include the Syreen.  He also included a bonus remix from a personal friend of his.

Link: TheMisterCat's Star Control Remixes
Link: The Precursors

Did You Know? Pkunk Fury Reincarnation

Pkunk Fury

The Pkunk Fury is a very interesting ship.  It moves fast, has a great turning rate and fires in 3 directions simultaneously:  Left, right and forward.  It does not regenerate battery power on its own; the player must hold down the secondary button to generate this power.  During this time, the Pkunk captain will say insults such as “worm”, “dummy” and “fool”.

One of the interesting things about this ship is that when it is destroyed, there is a constant 50% chance that the ship will return with a full crew.  There is no set limit to how many times it can reincarnate.  This means that there is nothing stopping the Fury from coming back 0, 1, 2, 3 or even 50 times (it’s possible, though extremely improbable).  I remember seeing a video of a single ship coming back a total of 7 times.

The ability to come back with a full crew complement also creates an interesting strategy for Pkunk players with low crew:  Should he or she move cautiously and try to avoid damage, or move in with all guns blazing, betting on being destroyed to come back for another chance to win?  When I play as the Pkunk, there are times when I will only have 2 crew members left against a more powerful ship (e.g. Dreadnought, Broodhome, etc.) and I will intentionally crash into a planet, die and hope that I’ll come back.

The Fury’s ability to reincarnate has created a very interesting question regarding a fight against a Syreen Penetrator:  If a Penetrator takes Pkunk crew, and the Fury is destroyed and reincarnated, is the new crew cloned or replaced with other Pkunk?  Serge van den Boom (meep-eep) had a very good answer for it:

"Reincarnation does not have to happen in chronological order. You could die as Gandhi and be reincarnated as Nero. You could even have just one "soul" sequentially reincarnating as everyone who has ever lived."
‐ Serge van den Boom, UQM forums

Since we’re on the subject of the Pkunk, here’s some text from the 2007 IRC chatlog when TFB was working on Madagascar 2:

"<+CeeVee> The Pkunk...how physically similar to the Yehat are they? We only see their heads and necks, and I was just wondering if they had more of a resemblance in the rest of their anatomy.
<+PR3> Pkunk, Yehat, Erol?
<+Erol> Pkunk very very different... really really different."

"<+RainDaemon> silly question: If the Pkunk are such endearing fellows, how come their middle fingers are so long?
<+PR3> I presume that Pkunk with a longer middle finger had a reproductive advantage."
‐ 2007 TFB IRC Chatlog

That’s what creates the mystery behind Star Control and many other games; there are these small (and sometimes weird) questions we have and as we try to answer them, they expand to even more questions and they become more than just a great game to an entire universe within itself.

Link: Pkunk on UQM Wiki

what we've got cookin' could be just as cool"

The gods at TFB have spoken:

"Madagascar 2 Shipped!

Our most recent game, Madagascar 2, has shipped!  We've already sold close to 10 million copies.  Alright, maybe that statement is not based on any real hard data, or even any real soft data, but something that is true is that we are really proud of the game and hope you folks that pick it up like it too.  For the Star Control fans, I'm sorry to inform you that our next game will not be a new Star Control game, but it is very likely that what we've got cookin' could be just as cool, so look out!"
‐ Toys for Bob News, January 14 2009

It’s been so long since the TFB news page has been updated and it’s great to read about what they’re up to.  Even though it’s not Star Control, I’m just glad that they wrote something.  I’ve never stopped crossing my fingers, except for having to write this post.

It’s not easy to convince a giant company such as Activision-Blizzard to approve a game as unique as Star Control.  That does not mean that it’s impossible!  I still remember that Alex wrote that the people from Activision had some interest in Star Control:

"Well, we have talked to our parent company Activision about doing a Star Control sequel, quite seriously, and there did honestly seem to be some real live interest on their part.  At least on the prototype and concept‐test level."
‐ Toys for Bob News, June 14 2007

The only information we have so far about their next project is that they are currently working on another game that is not Star Control.  I don’t think it is Madagascar 3 because there is no way that can be described as “just as cool” as Star Control.  It’s another mystery and I await any clues, announcements and especially trailers for more information.  I am aware of their policy of not revealing what the game is until a certain amount of time has passed.

I really can’t think of what it could possibly be.  Some people have speculated about a sequel to Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam.  The fact that they wrote that what they’re working on “could be just as cool” as Star Control leaves me clueless.  What could TFB be working on that could be as cool as Star Control?  I could write a list of random baseless guesses, but I have no way of knowing the chances of it being correct.  Is it a new Intellectual Property title, or another licensed idea from Activision?

I thought about the possibility of them adding an obscure Star Control reference in whatever game they’re working on.  However, I’m not sure how Activision-Blizzard would react to it.  For example, Wimbli’s trident appears in Star Control II and later on in The Horde.

In summary, we have another “What is TFB up to” mystery and only time can give us more clues and someday, maybe even a trailer.

Brian Freyermuth Loves Star Control

Brian Freyermuth is one of the designers involved in the first Fallout game and its first spinoff, Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.  In addition, he was also the lead designer of the game Run Like Hell.

In an interview with No Mutants Allowed, he was asked what his favorite games are.  He had this to say:

"I love role‐playing games. Fantasy, Sci‐Fi, you name it, I devour them. Yet, if I have to name a favorite, that would be Star Control 2. The music, the exploration, the humor, and even the role playing elements make this truly one of the greatest games ever created. I've played the open source version at least twice since it was released."
‐ Brian Freyermuth

Although I’ve never played any of the Fallout games yet, it’s great to hear that one of the designers of one of the greatest games of all time chose Star Control as his favorite.  It’s awesome to hear that there are people working in the video game industry who remember Star Control and find ways to say the name whenever they discuss games in the past.

You can read the full interview at No Mutants Allowed.

Pkunk Fury vs. Chenjesu Broodhome Ends In A Draw

Veke99 was recording a battle of a Pkunk Fury against a Chenjesu Broodhome, which resulted in a ver interesting draw.  The Fury ressurected twice and took down the last crew of the Broodhome, only to be hit by its crystal shard.

I had a similar match against a computer a long time ago, where I was playing a Druuge Mauler against a AI controlled Pkunk Fury, and I managed to somehow ram it against the planet where it got destroyed.  Unfortunately, after the Fury blew up, I also died the same way, but the Fury resurrected resulting in me losing that match.

Nice video, Veke99.

Space Exploration: Serpens Sector

Space Exploration Intro

I was reading about some game projects online, when I came across a game with a description that caught my attention:

"Space Exploration: Serpens Sector is a role-playing game based on classics like Starflight and Star Control. You are tasked with exploring the mysterious Serpens Sector after a long period of human absence. Each game has a different map and a different set of encounters, drawn from a large list. The base game will be free, and purchasable expansions will add further encounters for those who enjoy the game and want to see more."
- Metal Beetle, January 13, 2009 Press Release

Star Control and Starflight have a very interesting connection together.  The creator of Star Control (Paul Reiche) and the creator of Starflight (Greg Johnson) are friends.  Greg was involved in some of the design, graphics and artwork in the first Star Control.  He was also involved in Star Control II and provided the voice of the depressed Utwig.  In addition to Starflight, Greg is also well-known for the ToeJam & Earl series, an adventure game known for its funky music and randomly-generated levels.  I haven’t had the chance to play much of the Starflight games and I know that it also has a strong legacy like Star Control does.  The fact that the creator of Space Exploration mentioned these two games as influences really caught my attention and I love seeing that it has inspired people to create something new that they love.

Although it is still in the development stage, it is very playable and fun.  Space Exploration is a point-and-click adventure game where the starmap is randomly arranged each time.  This makes every gameplay experience different, and encourages the player to move to different planets each time to see what happens.

"The Serpens Sector is a remote region of space accessible by a wormhole near the Sol system.  It previously held several small human colonies, but in the Great Disconnect 200 years ago, all contact was lost.  The human space fleet has been busy trying to keep the peace after the catastrophe, so while individuals have visited the sector quite recently, no formal charting mission has been undertaken.  This is about to change"
- Space Exploration plot

The player is given 1000 units of fuel and 200 game days to explore the Serpens Sector and return to the wormhole.  Each move to different planets consumes fuel and the remaining days depending on its distance.  The remaining days will also diminish as the player spends more time on the planet searching for materials.  Some planets will have resources such as gold, fuel, weapons, people who are willing to join your crew and aid you and last but not least, enemies.

When a player reaches a planet with an enemy on it, he or she is given the option of fleeing or fighting.  The combat portion of the game is a turn-based, grid layout, where both opponents take a turn moving and attacking.

Space Exploration Combat

In one of my sessions, I was fighting a pirate ship and after my victory, I was given the option to either leave it alone, take prisoners and treasure, or simply take treasure.  I chose to take both prisoners and treasure, resulting the capture of 3 prisoners and the pirate captain starting the self-destruct sequence resulting in the death of their crew and the loss of all treasure.

So, is Space Exploration: Serpens Sector worth checking out? Yes it is. Don’t expect it to replace Star Control or Starflight, or compete with them in any way. It certainly has a few influences from Star Control in the sense that the player must explore unknown space not knowing to expect and there is some resource management.   I haven’t had the chance to play it more thoroughly and with the time I have had to play it so far, it has a lot of potential.  It takes one of the many things that we love about Star Control and turns it into an interesting turn-based point-and-click game that we can appreciate without thinking about the word “ripoff”. Space Exploration creator David Stark, also has plans on creating expansions for this series for a price.  I’m not sure what to expect from these paid addons and I am glad that the standalone version is still free.  The free Serpens Sector standalone by itself has a lot of potential and is worth checking out.

It is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

David Stark’s Website