Did You Know? VUX Limpet Cocoons

I was looking through a bunch of Erol Otus drawings that I scanned from the manual of Star Control for the Sega Genesis. One of them caught my attention:

The reason why this caught my attention is because this is the first time I’ve ever seen a limpet close-up.  In Star Control and Star Control II, the limpet cocoons have always been displayed as green balls.  It’s even shown the the detailed ship info in the first Star Control in the top-right corner:

After further reading, I found some interesting info in the UQM Wiki:

"An additional Intruder offensive weapon is the 'limpet', which launches inside a protective cocoon which automatically targets enemy vessels. Upon nearing a target, the cocoon cracks, releasing the limpet to clamp down upon the enemy vessel's hull."
- "Intruder", Ultronomicon (UQM Wiki)

That actually clears things up; the green balls that we’ve been seeing in the game have been the cocoons, and the picture of the limpets being removed are the limpets themselves after they have been hatched.  With the bitmap sizes, it would be impossible to display a cocoon actually hatching, and it would be difficult to tell the difference.  Most of us have only seen the limpet cocoon stick to the enemy ship, making a chomping sound, and people like myself haven’t thought much of it since I’m usually concentrating on the battle itself.

So, there you have it.  That’s what a limpet looks like after it hatches from its cocoon.  And now you know…

Brad Wardell Wants To Make a New Star Control?

I was reading some articles, when I found an article by journalist/Star Control fan, Chris Remo, titled “Stardock CEO Wardell Eyes Star Control, Orion, And More”:

As it turns out, that's[Master of Magic] not the only lapsed property the Stardock team dreams of getting its hands on -- and not the only one currently owned by Atari, for that matter.

"I actually pitched Atari on a whole idea for a true successor to Star Control," CEO Brad Wardell tells Gamasutra, noting that the game would follow original series developer Toys for Bob's Star Control II rather than the Legend Entertainment-developed Star Control 3 ("We just pretend that never happened," the CEO says of that release).


Novato, California-based Toys for Bob has actually floated the idea of making its own Star Control II sequel, with co-creator Paul Reiche III indicating he has tossed potential design ideas around, but with the company now owned by publisher Activision the proposal seems to be stuck in limbo.
- Chris Remo, Stardock CEO Wardell Eyes Star Control, Orion, And More

Brad Wardell wants to purchase a bunch of video game rights, including Star Control.  Stardock is a great company and their game, Sins of a Solar Empire is a great real-time strategy game that has a great fanbase.  Their philosphy that copy-protection causes more piracy than it prevents is something that I share, along with many other PC gamers.

They know how to make good games and I realize that Star Control wouldn’t be the same without the TFB-twist that Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford have done with the previous Star Control games.  I remember Alex Ness writing on the TFB website that Paul has a bunch of ideas for the Star Control sequel:

Besides helping us convince Activision that there is a fan base clammoring for this game, the emails really fire Paul up. He's been brainstorming ideas on his spare time for a possible sequel and come up with some really cool stuff.
- Alex Ness, June 28 2006

I would love to see Paul’s ideas come to life in a new Star Control sequel that they have complete control over.  One of the many things that make Star Control II unique is that it’s never too serious or cartoony; it switches back and forth with alien races such as the Kohr-Ah, Spathi, Ur-Quan, Zoq-Fot-Pik, etc.  Not everyone is a high-tech “let’s move in for the kill” starship captain.

I appreciate Brad’s ambition to revive these games, and I feel that the only people who should have the rights to Star Control should be Paul and Fred.  The open source version of Star Control II is called “The Ur-Quan Masters” because Atari owns these rights, but I still call it Star Control regardless of the legalities.

There’s nothing I can do to stop Brad from wanting to buy the rights to Star Control and if they do go through with it, I hope he contacts Paul and Fred and gets them involved in the project, allowing them to shape the potential Star Control any way they wish.  If they are allowed to have creative control over the project, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Toys for Bob/Stardock alliance.

I’m glad that there are other game developers out there who care about having a Star Control and there needs to be emphasis that only Toys for Bob can make this sequel and they’re the only ones who can do it right.  They need to take their time with it, without being forced to meet a ridiculous deadline.

I know that Stardock understands how hard it is to release an Intellectual Property game and promote it at the same time, and their experience with Sins of a Solar Empire shows that they know what they’re doing.  Brad, please don’t take Star Control away from the gods that created it.  I seriously thought about buying the rights myself and I realized that I have no legal-experience and very little cash to do it.  The only way I can see Stardock making a worthy sequel to Star Control II is if they work with Toys for Bob, and have their approval and guidance for every single thing in the game.  If they feel generous enough, they could give the rights to Paul and Fred, so that Atari can’t slaughter the name any further.  However that’s completely up to Brad, and I’ve never heard of people generously giving legal rights away.

If they do get the rights to Star Control and make a sequel that Toys for Bob does not approve of, I will not hesitate to call it “SCnot3-2”.

Full Story: Stardock CEO Wardell Eyes Star Control, Orion, And More by Chris Remo

A Short Story About a Little Gaming Alliance

I’ve been thinking about my years of college and I don’t remember telling anyone about my failed attempt to spread the word of Star Control to other gamers.  It’s nothing spectacular because nothing really happened from it and the club ended before it even had a chance to start, so I guess it can be seen as a tragedy of some kind.

At the start of my second year of classes, I received an e-mail about the many clubs that were available for people to join.  There were many types of clubs, ranging from martial arts, foreign films, anime, music, dancing and last but not least, video games.  There was a club called the “Gaming Alliance” where people could play many types of video games.  This was a few months after Alex Ness first announced wanting to make a new Star Control game with Activision, and UQM 0.6.0 was released with netplay.  I wanted to join the club and show everyone UQM and get people to learn about the melee combat and start playing against different people.  I knew that it would take a while to get used to the combat, but I figured that it’s worth a shot at least.

So, I walked into the Student Center and I told them that I am interesting in joining the Gaming Alliance.  I wrote my name and e-mail address on a long list of potential club members and I was told that this is one of the clubs getting the most attention.  There were over 30 people on that list and I felt nervous about how I would show of UQM to everyone else.  I even made sure I had the 3DO intro and ending videos copied to the UQM folders to help show it off.  There are many retro gamers out there, and I hoped that it would appeal to them as well.

A few weeks later, I received an e-mail from the Student Center saying that they would like to see me because there is something they would like to talk about with me.  The person who deals with setting up these clubs told me that the person who started this club had to stand down as club president because of a personal matter and offered me the spot of club president.  We knew each other because I used to work as tech support at the college and I helped him a few times with computer-related stuff.  I happily accepted the offer, not knowing the responsibilities ahead of me.

As club president, I had to manage the club itself, in addition to my little plan of showing off Star Control.  Unfortunately, my classes continued to get harder and with the midterms getting closer and my need to find a job, I had less time to dedicate to the club.

I got an e-mail from someone who wanted to hold a Counter-Strike tournament, and a girl who wanted to interview me regarding gaming culture.  I even tried scheduling time in the evenings for the meetings.  I want to stick to the philosophy of “any game, any console, any time”.  I had the idea of people just showing off random games and everyone would play as many games as possible and nobody would feel lost in a single game and encourage people to explore other genres.  Because of my busy schedule, I never had the chance to start a single club meeting and I had to go back to the Student Center and tell them that I no longer have time for the club anymore and I had to resign.  They passed the rank of club president to someone else and I don’t know what happened after that.

I still think about it occasionally.  I imagined that I’d make a few people raise their eyebrows at me and I had no plans on concentrating on hardcore gamers.  I love talking about video games and watching videos of them, so I wanted to find a way to encourage people to find a game they like, talk about it and if possible, have other people download it for free and play it.  If the club members did like UQM, I would have mentioned TFB’s desire to make a new Star Control and I’d help them write letters to Alex.  Even though my plan ultimately failed, I’m just glad I tried at least.

What Happens Next?

In case anyone is still wondering, Toys for Bob has recently finished developing the video-game adaptation of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa for the Xbox 360, PlayStation and Wii. Although there have been no announcements and no TFB logo shown in any of the Madagascar trailers, it can be a bit confusing to determine who is responsible for what. Here is a credits screenshot from MadagascarTheGame.com:

The above screenshot shows while TFB was working on three home console versions, there were other developers working seperately on the PlayStation 2, Nintendo DS and PC versions.

It’s no secret that Activision makes large profits from these licensed-games. Many of these games are the result of Activision’s contacts with companies such as Marvel Comics and DreamWorks Animations.

So, what’s next for the gods at TFB? I honestly don’t know! All I can do is guess. In addition to writing fan mail, Alex Ness has also asked us to send him our photos with something Star Control related in the background:

"So anyway, I'm going to buy a map. A real big one. Then I'm going to prominently display it somewhere in our office. Phase one of my plan will then be complete.

Phase two is where I once again, ask you wonderful community of fans for support. What I want is to put pictures of you guys up on this map."
‐ Alex Ness, April 28 2008

Will our letters and their world map be enough to convince them? Only time can tell. I still have my fingers crossed for them. This is a very anxious moment for us, the fans. I know that it’s not easy to try something new instead of pushing another movie game. I remember Alex writing on the TFB website about Activision showing some interest in a Star Control sequel:

"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. This is something we may in fact get to do when we finish our current game and clean our room."
‐ Alex Ness, June 14 2007

To be honest, I believe that Activision will eventually be forced to publish some original games, regardless of their merger with Vivendi Universal forming Activision Blizzard. Activision’s well-known games are starting to get some serious competition:

  1. Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band - The rights to Guitar Hero and the hardware designs are owned by RedOctane, who was purchased by Activision, and developed by Harmonix, who was purchased by MTV. After being bought out, Harmonix started the Rock Band series in 2007 which featured additional drums and a microphone. Guitar Hero didn't have these until Guitar Hero World Tour in 2008.
  2. Tony Hawk vs. Skate - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater is the first game in the Tony Hawk series that debuted on the PlayStation 1, and was a great success which spawned many sequels on multiple platforms. I've played many of them and it is fun pulling unrealistic trick combos. EA Black Box wanted to make a skateboarding game that focus on realism and used the analog sticks to do tricks instead of buttons. This game would be known as "Skate". It had a really high-reception due to its realism and environments, despite some lag issues. EA Black Box is also making Wii and DS exclusive versions that make use of the Wii's motion capabilities, balance board and the DS touchscreen.
  3. Crash Bandicoot vs. Super Mario vs. Banjo-Kazooie vs. Viva Piñata - The reason why this one is so long is because there are a lot of games geared towards a younger audience that are not necessarily platform games. Crash Bandicoot is no longer being made by its original developers, Naughty Dog, and is now in the hands of Radical Entertainment.
  4. Call of Duty vs. Unreal Tournament vs. Medal of Honor vs. Team Fortress 2 vs. Left 4 Dead - There is no argument that Call of Duty 4 is considered one of the best games of 2007. It is one of Infinity Ward's best known games. There are more competitive first person shooters showing up this year, and many people have mixed feelings about Call of Duty: World at War going back to the past, with no information about what period Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 6 will take place in.

There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of competition. Without competition, nothing would ever change. With the video game market getting more crowded, publishers should start thinking about how their game differs from others rather than the money spent on advertising. I know more people who have purchased Rock Band over Guitar Hero because it is something that people can play together when people visit.

If Activision could surprise gamers with a Star Control game instead of another rushed sequel for the holidays or a movie game, it would definitely grab attention. For it to succeed, it must be promoted as much as their other games, and TFB must have enough time to get everything done. TFB have always done their best with all their work and always meet their deadlines. They’ve been in the video game business for over 20 years, and with all that experience, one risk with an original game is worth taking.

When I think about how people compared games to Star Control like Mass Effect and Spore, it shows that after all these years, they somehow thought about Star Control doing it first.

In summary, I have no idea what TFB has planned next and I’m so exicited to read what their next news post will be. If you are reading this and you would like to support a new Star Control, please check out my petition page and the one at the the official UQM Sourceforge site. I know Activision loves their “low risk, high return” movie games and pushing sequels and with the competition starting to get stronger, I hope they understand how serious and dedicated TFB is and allow a new Star Control to be made. No matter what happens, we must stay strong, keep the fanbase alive and never stop showing our support.

Thraddash Remix

(Video removed)

MesarBobo brings us this really cool remix to the Thraddash theme made by Bryce Coulson.  This version has a faster tempo and has an electronic trance vibe to it.

"I loved the music for Star Control 2 so much that I could not resist making these remixes. I hope you enjoy them too."
- Bryce Coulson

I wish I could make music like this.  I have an acoustic and electric guitar and I don’t know how to play either.  I can strum chords and play some scales, but don’t expect me to rock out or anything.  I play better in Guitar Hero than I do with a real one.  I also have a Korg Kaossilator which I love making random loops with whenever I’m bored.  With the heavy workload from my final years of college, I had to put my guitar lessons aside and start studying.  As of right now, I have paid off all my debts, so after I graduate, I owe nobody money.  In conclusion, I have no strong musical background and I think it’s great that people are getting into music, and it’s even cooler to see people like The Precursors and MesarBobo remix the Star Control II soundtrack.

Thank you Bryce for taking the time to make this remix and to MesarBobo for uploading it to YouTube.

Click here to download: sc2_thraddash_remix

EDIT: Revised post to give proper credit to Bryce Coulson.

Take The Ur-Quan Quiz

Futoku posted a quiz that asks 19 questions and tells which species best represents you based on your answers.

Check it out!

After I went through the quiz, it told me that I am an Orz:

"25 Businesslike, 48 Careful, 25 Environmental, 56 Friendly, 64 Intellectual, 50 Humour, 65 Open, 58 Oppressive, 39 Violent and 25 Mysterious!

The Orz are — is — an alien species, or perhaps projection of an extradimensional entity.

You appear as a gill‐breather to others, resembling a yellow parrotfish with eyestalks, though it is not known if this is your actual true form..."
‐ The Ur‐Quan Quiz

The questions and multiple choice answers are very interesting.  The choices available are based on different personalities of each alien.  Some examples include “happy camper” and “Hey! Bird-brains! Got any fruit loops? Har-har-har!”  It’s really cool and sometimes I feel like choosing the funniest answer more than the one that best represents me.

Thanks Futoku for taking the time to make this.

So, which species represents you?

More info: The Ur-Quan Quiz

Have a *Happy* Star Control Halloween!

At the beginning of October, I really wanted to carve pumpkins with Star Control related images such as the Star Control II logo, and even some of the ships, then sharing them on the blog for everyone to look at.  Unfortunately, I was so busy with other personal stuff that I never had the time to even start.  To make matters worse, I didn’t even know how to carve specific shapes and details on a pumpkin, so the first thing I did was search YouTube for pumpkin carving videos.  They mentioned that it would take several hours washing the pumping, hollowing it out, cutting the lid and cutting the shapes and details.  Also, the fact that I am an amateur pumpkin carver would make it take even longer.  So, I gave up on the pumpkin project altogether.

I tried my best to find something that resembles the theme of a Star Control Halloween and I’d like to start off with a quote from the Pages of Now & Forever:

"You know you played to LITTLE Star Control if you decide to throw a halloween party on Spathiwa"
- Pages of Now & Forever, Star Control Humor

Recently, I was reading a series of webcomics called “Cyanide and Happiness”, known for its sick and twisted humor not for the light-hearted or anyone who is easily offended.  There was a particular comic that grabbed my attention:

It looks like the Spathi, doesn’t it?  There are some key differences such as the aliens in this cartoon have no torsos or claws, there are no Eluder ships and they are not acting very cowardly at all.  If Fwiffo pulled a ray gun and start to blast people to pieces, I’d be scared too.  Some people say that it’s the ones we least expect who will go insane and start blasting away at people.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the obscure Spathi resemblance.  Have a safe and happy Star Control Halloween!

Happy Camper* Sighting

I was reading some articles about unreleased video games, when I came across an unreleased NES that grabbed my attention:

Happy Camper

Although the game itself has no connections to Star Control whatsoever, I just think it’s funny that I forgot how weird and obscure video games can become, no matter what year it is.  Also, most people would look at this game and say “Is that real?”, while Star Control fans would immediately think of the shady and lovable Orz and their crazy language.

Happy Camper mixed different and bizarre gameplay elements from other video games:

"It actually started out life sort of poking fun at the environmentalist/camping scene and at the same time trying to blend the Paperboy/California Games/generic skateboard game with an outdoor theme."
- Jon Valesh

There’s no hidden messages or anything else that could be connected to Star Control other than  the game’s name.  Also, they missing the asterisks in happy camper.

Speaking of the Orz language, there has never been any official translations from Paul or Fred; only educated guesses from the fans (e.g. us):

"The best *campers* are the *happy campers* — i.e. *campers* that have friendly relations with the Orz (such as the Humans after allying with them, or the Taalo, which are "even better *campers* than [the Humans]")."</br> - Ultronomicon, Orz communications

I heard there was a sequel planned for Happy Camper, called Silly Cow… Just kidding!  Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the funny screenshots.  I just wish that the Orz could tell me what happened to the Androsynth, instead of telling not to ask and then trying to kill me.

"They were snagged by the entity who/which projected its fingers into our dimension (which looked to us as the Orz.)"
- Paul Reiche and Fred Ford

The mysteries behind the Orz and the Andrysynth can only be answered by a true sequel to Star Control II made by the gods at Toys for Bob.

If anyone is curious about this game, there’s more info at Lost Levels.

Al Lowe Wishes TFB The Best of Luck

Al Lowe is a game designer best known for his adventure games such as Leisure Suit Larry 1 through 7 (LSL 4 doesn’t really exist, but is jokingly referenced in other games) and Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist.  He is also a very skilled saxophone player and has also taught other people how to play the saxophone as an instructor.

Like TFB, Al Lowe also knows the feeling of having his game taken away from him, only to have another developer make an inferior version without any of Al Lowe’s clever writing and humor in it.  To this day, Sierra is continuing the Leisure Suit Larry series without Al Lowe’s presence.

With his years of experience in game design back in the day, I was curious about his feelings towards a Star Control, so I sent him an e-mail.  This is what he wrote back to me:

"I wish them the best of luck‐‐because they'll need it!

Four years ago I formed a company to develop a new game, with new characters and even a new genre: action comedy. I figured, if it works in movies, it might work in games. And it did. We hired a great team, good programmers, creative artists, excellent level designers. The game design was strong and different, we had funny characters, it ran well and looked good, with next‐gen 3D graphics and good music and voiceover talent.

Then we took it to every major publisher. They seemed excited to meet us. Most of them said things like, "I love your games" and "I grew up laughing at you" even "I'm in games because of you." They started laughing when they saw the title. When we showed them what we had finished, they said things like "This is the first game I've seen in months that I actually might play" and "This is most original game we've seen in years."

So what happened? Every one of them asked us to show them "comparables," industry‐speak for "other games that are enough like yours that we can look at how they sold and predict how yours will sell." Since we had none, they didn't know what to do, so they opted out.

We laid off our staff and shut down the company.

And you wonder why video games have lost their creativity!?"
‐ Al Lowe

Even though he kept it simple with one sentence, he is right; TFB will need the best of luck in addition to our undying support in order for Activision to let them make a new Star Control sequel.  His story about his cancelled game (Sam Suede: Undercover Exposure) is a sad one and an example that shows that publishers are afraid to try new things.

This doesn’t have a negative impact on my feelings towards a new Star Control.  Al Lowe wanted to invent the action comedy genre, something that developers haven’t done.  He never gave up on making his own games no matter the conditions, and hasn’t expressed any rage towards Sierra continuing Leisure Suit Larry without him.  As of this writing, Al is no longer active in the gaming industry and continues to play saxophone at concerts and maintains a daily joke mailing list.

When I think about Toys for Bob, they survived by respecting their publisher’s wishes, no matter how bad they make us feel.  Accolade allowed them to make Star Control I and II on their own, which were both amazing games for their time.  When they moved to Crystal Dynamics, they remade SC2 with voiceovers and new music, which would eventually evolve into the free open source version known as The Ur-Quan Masters.  TFB have also made games such as Pandemonium, The Horde and The Unholy War.  When their contract ended with Crystal Dynamics, they started to develop games for Activision.  Unfortunately, they never had a chance to develop a game that uses their own Intellectual Property and instead developed licensed games such as 102 Dalmations, Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure, and Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam.  While these games are good, they obviously cannot replace Star Control.  Fred Ford had a good response when he was asked how he can make games like these after Star Control:

"We have chosen this as our career and we prefer to have food on the table.  Games cost so much to make these days that originality was one of the first casualties.  Paul and I are still biding our time."
‐ Fred Ford

I absolutely agree with him, since it is certainly better than to do nothing and not get paid. Now that the TFB family is a bit larger and with all the game development experience they’ve had over the years, Activision cannot ignore the fact that no matter how many licensed games they make, Star Control 1 and II will continue to be their best known games. If Activision allows them to make a third game, a true sequel to Star Control II, it will definitely leave a positive mark in the sci-fi genre and we will make sure that people are aware of Star Control this time, with the power of the internet. :D

There are so many Spore reviews that compared its space stage to Star Control II and that says that even though Spore is a highly-acclaimed game, it just cannot replace the majestic nature of Star Control.

In summary, it’s always risky to try new things and it will never succeed if people aren’t willing to support as much as they do with their other games.  With the merging of Activision and Vivendi forming Activision Blizzard, I have no idea how this may affect than chances of a new Star Control.  No matter what, TFB needs all the luck and support it can get in order to make a new Star Control a reality.

Thank you Al for taking the time to write back to me.

Michael Pachter Says Star Control Has Potential

Michael Pachter is an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, dealing with entertainment software and retail.  He is also a frequent guest on the show Bonus Round on GameTrailers.  He provides plenty of insight such as how much money a gamer will pay for a high profile like Grand Theft Auto IV, how many people bought a PlayStation 3 for blu-ray movies and how Wii Music may have good sales and bad reviews.

With his knowledge of the video game industry, I sent him an e-mail about Toys for Bob’s desire to make a new Star Control with Activision.  Here’s what he wrote in his e-mail response:

"I am not familiar with the game, but since Activision bought Toys for Bob, I’m sure that they are well aware of the game’s potential.  I may have played it in the past (the name SOUNDS familiar, but I can’t be sure), but since I’ve played a few thousand games over the last 15 years, I am ashamed to admit that I don’t remember it.

It sounds interesting.  I think that sci‐fi is an underexploited category, and think that it has a tremendous amount of potential."
‐ Michael Pachter

Although he doesn’t exactly remember Star Control, it’s nice to hear from him that “it has a tremendous amount of potential” and that he’s sure that Activision is well aware of this.  I completely agree that science fiction is “an underexploited category”.  There are still sci-fi games being made and it’s never the majority of games.  I’m still a diehard sci-fi fan and that will never change no matter what’s popular today.  I love games that are science fiction or fantasy because when I play these games, I can forget about the real world I live in and immerse myself in another world and be entertained by things that I will most likely never do in real life.  Star Control isn’t just a single game nor does it revolve around a single character.  It’s an entire universe full of strange aliens that affect the game’s plot somehow, different ships, branching storylines and really awesome music that is unique and represents each race.

Thank you Michael for taking the time to write back to me.