The Orz invaded Spore

Pentherapy decided to recreate the Orz species in Spore and it looks just like them.

If I had to describe the appearance of the Orz, I would say that they are a mix between a fish and a parrot.  Their crazy language is hilarious and adds to the mystery of Star Control.

The Orz took over the Androsynth homeworld.  If the player pesters them regarding the wherabouts of the Androsynth, they become enraged and become enemies.  Honestly, I always assumed that the Orz jumped from Quasispace and led an all out attack on the Androsynth and got rid of all the bodies.  However, that is just a quick guess without any real proof that supports it.  The only people who know what happened to the Androsynth are the gods at Toys for Bob.  It’s these mysteries that remind us that there will always be a deep story to tell in the Star Control series that Paul and Fred started.

The Orz Nemesis is a really powerful ship. Its rotating cannon can be used to fire from any angle, such as firing backwards or to the side while circling an enemy.  Its space marines are comparable to the Ur-Quan’s fighters, but can use the planet’s gravitational force to increase their speed, and once they get inside the ship, the opponent cannot fight them off and is forced to wait for them to die out.

Thanks pentherapy for recording this.

Star Control 1 - Syreen Seductions pt 1

With all the videos of Star Control II and SCnot3 (thanks Zarla for going through all that), moonsdad wanted to show the world what Star Control 1 was like.  He used the infamous DOSBox (DOS emulator) to run this.  The recording program for this emulator has problems with sound, so he took the time to edit it so that there’s classical music in the background, with cartoon bonking sounds whenever they hit the planet, with a few voice samples for the Syreen Song and laughter for the Ur-Quan.

The original audio would be silent with a few 16-bit sounds every time they fire and hit the planet, along with their victory songs.  Although there were other versions of Star Control released on other systems such as the ZX Spectrum, Atari Amiga and the Sega Genesis (aka Mega Drive), most people have played the PC version of Star Control.  This is also where the ship info screens have originated.

There are also simularities to one of Paul Reiche’s previous games, Archon.  In the Full Game campaign, there are turned-based movements, but the board is a 3D starfield instead of a chessboard.  When two opposing units meet at the same spot, they battle in a one-on-one real-time battle.

Star Control 1 is still worth playing, because this has a lot of history in it, and even has a new type of AI, where the computer can either move through the starfield for you, battle for you, or allow the computer to take do both actions and think for themselves.

More information about Star Control can be found at the Pages of Now and Forever.

Thanks moonsdad.

Accolade's '93 PC Catalog

I was searching through my Star Control collection, and I decided to read through the booklets for the first Star Control game, and I remembered that Accolade included a PC Game catalog to get players to order games to be delivered straight to their homes.  This is a very old sales method, and other companies such as Apogee (now 3D Realms) used this method as well.

The Original blockbuster!
"The Original blockbuster!"  The game that started it all.

Come, I will teach you the ways of the warrior.
"Come, I will teach you the ways of the warrior."  Note the flagship in the bottom-left corner has the name "Vindicator" for the ship.  The default name for the released PC version is "Unnamed".  Vindicator became the default name for the 3DO version.

Out of curiosity, I tried to call that 1-800 number just to find out who would answer, and it is no longer a valid number.  Not that I was expecting anyone to scream “STAR CONTROL RULES!”, although that would be awesome.

Even though Accolade’s assets are now owned by Atari, it’s good to know that they advertised their games as much as their other games, even they were known more for their sports games at the time.  I remember that I discovered Star Control because my father installed it on our old computer years ago, and I have no idea how he discovered it.  A few years later, my brother heard that Star Control II was out and we had a difficult time finding it.  Around this time, WarCraft II just came out.  We didn’t have Accolade’s catalog at the time; the Star Control collection I have now is a bunch of things I won on eBay.

Eventually, I downloaded an abandonware version of Star Control II.  I read about how Star Control II had voices in it, and I asked in an IRC channel where I can find these voices, and someone replied “”.  After downloading the re-release, I read about The Ur-Quan Masters and its history.  At that point, it was the first time I have ever heard about the dead 3DO console.  I actually tried to buy a 3DO at one point on eBay, until someone placed a bid of $200, at which point, I started looking for an emulator after I got the Star Control II disc.

After reading these pages, I thought about the new Star Control sequel Toys for Bob wants to start working on.  Once they get started, it’s up to us, the fans, to start “pulling those strings” and use whatever connections we have to ensure that it is well-advertised, gets good reviews, and that the gods at TFB get enough time to get everything perfect!  I’m not condoning anything bad or illegal, just to make sure that Star Control gets its fair share in the spotlight, so that the Star Control fanbase can grow larger, and if TFB wants to make another sequel after that one, there will be more people waiting for “Star Control 4” this time.

Toys for Bob makes games for Activison, and WarCraft (which I mentioned earlier) was made by Blizzard.  I think it’s interesting that Activision and Vivendi Games (who owns Blizzard) merged together to form Activision Blizzard.  Unfortunately, I have no idea how this new partnership may affect Star Control.  If anything, I certainly hope its for the better.

Let's Play Ur-Quan Masters #22 - Slylandro Continued

(Video removed)

This is the newest episode of redpowervan’s Let’s Play Ur-Quan Masters.  He meets up with the Slylandro and tells them that their Probes are wreaking havoc.

Did you know that the Slylandro Probe is the only ship in Star Control that is immune to the Syreen Song?  Because of this and the fact that the Syreen Penetrator’s weak particle beam stiletto blasts, it doesn’t stand a chance against the fast tumbling probe with its lightning strike.  The Probe’s crew points are colored grey instead of usual green to indicate that these crew points are different from the other ships.

It’s also worth noting that the Slylandro Probe’s voice was made using a Macintosh Quadra 840AV computer and a text-to-speech program.

Thanks, redpowervan.  Keep the videos coming. :D

Fun With XNA Star Control 2

I finally got the time to try out Mr. Brian’s latest release of his XNA Project, and it is worth playing.  Although it is still being worked on and there are a few bugs, it definitely has some features worth checking out.

The PC version includes support for the Xbox 360 controller, so the first thing I did was plugged in my wired controller, and the controls are very nice.

The D-Pad can also be used for moving the ship like in the PC version.
The D-Pad can also be used for moving the ship like in the PC version.

The Versus mode is the same 1-vs-1 mode in the original Star Control II, although this one can be played widescreen and it seems to move a bit faster than the it too.  It’s nothing new, but it’s nice to have for those who want 1-on-1 combat. Survival mode has been disabled here due to some problems.  It will be replaced eventually.
Survival mode has is disabled here due to some problems. It will be replaced eventually.  It cannot be enabled.

There is a challenge mode, where Mr. Brian added various scenarios that can be played.  Some of these challenges are very challenging, and those who love Star Control challenges would love the ones in this beta version:

"Hard, but not impossible, I rekon", Honor and Glory Challenge
“"Hard, but not impossible, I rekon", Honor and Glory

"A 3v3 battle, featuring six ships from each side.", Alliance vs. Hierarchy
"A 3v3 battle, featuring six ships from eachside.", Alliance vs. Hierarchy

There’s a really cool feature in the challenges: Computer-controlled allies.  I don’t know if it required a rewrite of the computer’s AI, but it’s a cool addon that makes this version stand out.  Keep in mind that friendly fire is on, so it is possible to accidentally destroy alies and is important to recognize friend from foe in these challenges.

The arcade mode is another feature which I believe will make XNA Star Control 2 the ultimate party game for the Star Control fans out there once this project becomes stable and supports more than 1 player.

The AI's difficulty buttons are inspired from SC1. Maximum points is 200.
The AI's difficulty buttons are inspired by SC1.  The ? makes selecting random ships quick and easy.

The scoreboard shows stats for each player and their place.
The scoreboard shows stats for each player and their place.

I’m sorry if I repeat myself, because I want to put emphasis on the fact that this is a really awesome project that he chose to embark on.  Even with all current issues aside, it is still playable and there is a lot of potential.  If Mr. Brian plans on submitting his project the Dream Build Play Contest, and when that happens, we need to support him as much as possible through voting and positive feedback.

Nicely done, Mr. Brian.

For more info, check out his post, The Plan.

Flattened Out Technical Issues

While looking randomly through my website, I noticed that the YouTube videos I shared here wouldn’t play in Firefox for a moment.  In addition, the deviantArt images didn’t display properly for some reason.  After reading through the HTML code viewing Star Controller with different browsers, and asking for some feedback on the UQM forums, I realized that my current website layout is slightly crude, and as a result, I plan on changing the way I post new articles and how many articles are seen on each page.

I’d like to apologize for the issues mentioned above, and I’d like to admit that in addition to supporting Star Control and Toys for Bob, this website is also helping me learn about web design.  This incident taught me a lot of things about efficiency, quality and aesthetics.

I promise that I will do more thorough testing of the posts I create with major browsers, and this will not hinder the blog and its purpose in any way.

Thanks to everyone for providing me feedback about these issues.  Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with these issues as fast and logically as I did.

Is Star Control II a Casual or Hardcore Game?

I’ve been thinking of this one for a while, and I have come to the conclusion that it is neither 100% casual nor hardcore. It’s somewhere in between that mixes elements from both sides; easy enough to control the ships, and challenging enough to find out what needs to be done next and how to defend yourself against attacks and survive. In order to survive the battles, the player must understand the strengths and weaknesses of each ship and know when to flee. There is not a single ship that can easily defeat every other ship. The one-on-one melee can be considered a very complicated version of rock-paper-scissors.

One thing that makes Star Control appealing to people who enjoy space combat is the simple controls. The arrow keys are used for movement, one button for primary fire and another for secondary fire. With the small amount of keys to press, the player can react faster to an opponent’s movements, and can concentrate on what is happening on the screen without having to move their hands around to press other keys. Because of simple controls, the player can concentrate more on developing their strategy without having to learn complicated key combinations for every ship. Basically, it combines “pick up and play” controls with “difficult to master” strategy.

Like many action adventure games, this game has a very deep storyline that expands upon the first game. The player learns about the different races and how they are involved in the game through character dialog. It is through dialog that the player can collect important items to advance the plot and getting closer to completing the game. In addition, the player can also send a planet lander to pick up items and get more information such as a hyperwave caster and what’s left of the Androsynth homeworld. Characters can give advice on how they are and what needs to be done. The player can even talk to the Melnorme for more direct advice on what needs to be done next and how to do it.

With the melee combat system, adventure and character dialog, saving the universe is no easy task, especially with a bare-bones space ship design the player has at the beginning of the game. In order to get fuel, build other ships and make upgrades, the player must make routine visits to planets and moons to gather minerals to be converted to resource units. This can be very tedious at times given that there’s a time limit until the Kohr-Ah go around on an all-out assault. With those pesky Slylandro Probes roaming, things can get complicated, and finding their homeworld can be tricky depending on the hints that are given to you. I admit that I used a walkthrough guide to help me get rid of the probes.

In addition, assembling the Ultron is both a very important piece for completing the game and involves talking to the right people to know where to go next. Sometimes a character will ask for something in exchange for an item, or even start a battle about it. It is very challenging, and with the travelling that it takes to find those answers, it results in more resource mining to get more fuel. Although I have no problems with this, full-time casual gamers may take a while to get used to this.

In summary, it is no secret that it’s hard to save the universe.  Star Control combines action, adventure, science fiction, fantasy, RPG and space combat with a mood that shifts from the serious “you will be cleanesd” mentality to the humor of finding out what Frungy is.  The mineral gathering and character interactions are still very common in today’s games such as World of Warcraft and Mass Effect.  The purple-bridged Melnorme is an ingenious way to push the player in the right direction (at a price) in addition to upgrades, fuel and information about other races.  Star Control still provides a challenge by today’s standards and is still simple enough for people to understand and get into without feeling like a complete newbie.  With the walkthrough guides available online, even the most stubbourn players can get through this masterpiece to find out what it’s all about.  With the deep storyline, strategic melees and witty dialog, Star Control II is definitely worth the routine mineral gathering and mystery solving for anyone who loves adventure and sci-fi.  I just hope that everyone knows how to get the Mycon to go to Organon

Paper Star Control

While I was reading about random things related to the Star Control universe, I remembered some drawings I made on the computer of things from Star Control.  A light bulb turned on in my mind and I realized that I still had the hard drive which may have the images in questions.  I connected the hard drive to my computer, right-clicked the drive and I searched for “paper”.  After a few seconds, I found the Star Control pictures that I drew.  Here’s how it all started (even though I never finished)…

Two years ago, there was a popular thread on the official UQM forums titled “Graphic Enhancement Thread”.  Artists would enlarge the small bitmap images of ships, then redraw them at higher resolutions with more details.  These images weren’t actually planned to be in any future versions of The Ur-Quan Masters.  However, it was nice to see some fan art and so far, they have done a spectacular job.  With all the ships in Star Control, there’s still a few ships that haven’t been graphically enhanced yet.  Here’s an example of their work:

Image by Clay

There's more pictures like that in the thread and I think fan art is a great way of showing love and appreciation for a franchise and makes the fan base much stronger.

I really wanted to create something like that, but I have no artistic experience whatsoever.  All I can do is trace, doodle and color in simple shapes with pencil crayons.  Around this time, I was playing Super Paper Mario on my Nintendo Wii and I loved the 2D objects with the cartoonish 2D details.  Most of the characters and objects were a bunch of shapes stuck together, and I was confident enough that I could replicate the same effect with a free vector drawing program.  Unfortunately, I was so busy with college and work that I only finished 2 ships, a planet, and a simple cartoon sketch of Commander Hayes:

As you can see, the style does have a slight resemblance to the Paper Mario art style.  For the Dreadnought and Avatar ships, I enlarged the pixel images, traced over them with vector lines, then I simply colored them in and I used Photoshop to create the nice gradient effect for the Dreadnought.  I wanted redraw every ship and make a new thread about it, but I never had enough personal time to finish what I started, so I was left with the above images.

If anyone's wondering what that faint weird-looking shape is near the windows of the Dreadnought, I was trying to copy the exterior design of the Dreadnought ship from the info screen from the first Star Control:

In summary, the Graphic Enhancement Thread has since been buried by the newer posts on the forum and it is really worth checking out if anyone is interesting in seeing really cool remakes of the Star Control ships.  They are so awesome that they even inspired me to create my own versions of ships, Commander Hayes and a planet.  I hope you like what I came up with at the time and I like how they turned out despite my artistic limits. :D

Star Control Dreams

Yes, I still dream of Star Control but most of them are daydreams.  Yesterday, I had 2 dreams related to Star Control.  They were both short and weird.

The first dream I was driving a car down a long road and it would frequently break down, forcing me to pull over to the side and find some help.  Suddenly, a person would stop behind me and fix up my car and while that person helps me, we’d start talking about how much we love Star Control and how we’d love to play a new one.  After that person fixed my car, I’d resume driving, only to have it stall again minutes later, forcing me to pull over once again, with the result of another Star Control fan stopping by to save my car and provide another friendly conversation about Star Control.  The loop kept repeating.

The second dream, I was listening to the music from Star Control II and its remixes and someone remixed them with hip-hop.  That’s all I can remember.

Ken Levine Played Star Control

Ken Levine is the mastermind who designed the popular video game, BioShock.  It is one of his best known games to date.

Jason Ocampo from IGN writes about the keynote speech he gave at the 2008 Penny Arcade Expo:

After failing in Hollywood Levine talked about drifting for seven years before he rediscovered a love for gaming. This was in the late 80s and early 90s, with games such as Ultima Underworld, Star Control, and Warcraft becoming his[Ken Levine] passion. "I got lured back into gaming," he said, "and I got lured back in hard." Eventually he realized that there were people making a living making games, so he bought a games magazine, looked in the back, and discovered the help wanted ads in the back.

That’s right!  Star Control was a strong factor that got him to start a career in video games.  Perhaps he’d enjoy playing a true sequel to Star Control II.

Source: PAX 2008: Ken Levine Talks Childhood, Not BioShock