I was playing Red Faction: Armageddon, when I realized that every battle I entered, there would be a good chance that there was another enemy that irritated me: A larger enemy that is bigger, stronger, has ranged attacks, and can run towards me and explode if its health is low. There were so many battles with the larger, exploding aliens that it annoyed the heck out of me even at the “casual” difficulty. To make matters worse, I had to destroy generators, which created new aliens for each one I destroy. I don’t mind hordes of aliens; I just can’t stand those exploding aliens. Of course, I had to get used to using nano forge abilities, moving around more strategically, headshots, hiding behind cover, etc.

Imagine playing another game such as Call of Duty. You’re fighting the usual enemies and they’re attacking from all angles. Suddenly, a bigger and stronger enemy attacks you from a distance. You manage to hit it with all you got and suddenly it gets closer to you and it explodes. It would break the flow of the game, which is how it felt for me when I was playing Red Faction. I’m aware that since Modern Warfare, there has been a perk that allows a player to explode in Multiplayer after dying, taking the killer down with them if they are still near. However, all this does is give the victim a frag point, while the killer still keeps his frag point at taking down the other player.

Now, what does this have to do with Star Control? Star Control has its own exploding ship: The Shofixti Scout, which I like. The unique ship roster and their abilities is something that makes Star Control a unique game. To keep it sweet and simple, the Scout is small, fast, has a very weak primary attack, low crew/health, low fuel/energy, and has a “Glory Device”, capable of a devastating explosion. Even the shields of the Utwig Jugger and Yehat Terminator cannot protect them from the Scout’s explosion.

Scout Explosion Damaging Avatar

Even though the Chmmr Avatar is superior to the Scout in many ways, a well placed explosion can destroy some of the Avatar’s ZapSats, making it more vulnerable against the next opponent.

Despite the weaknesses, the Scout is still capable of dealing significant damage, making it just as valuable as any other ship. The opponent would definitely want to keep a safe distance and be able to attack at the same time. Imagine if instead of being small and weak, it was bigger, stronger and still capable of exploding. That wouldn’t be as fun, wouldn’t it? Imagine battling a group of Dreadnoughts and Marauders, and while fighting the Sa-Matra, it suddenly explodes, destroying your ships as its health becomes low. It would be extremely irritating.

My point is that the combat in Star Control is balanced enough so that I can think of a strategy to use against each ship or at least think of using different ships to take down bigger opponents such as using the Shofixti Scout to soften the Chmmr Avatar.

Generally, I find exploding enemies annoying. While they force the player to mix long and short range attacks, they must be balanced properly. For example, in Too Human, there are goblins that explode, however, they can be destroyed with a single ranged attack. In StarCraft, infested terrans can explode, but creating an infested command center is not easy (e.g. infesting a badly-damaged enemy command center) and the units are not the strongest and exploding is their only available attack. In StarCraft II, the Infested Terrans do not explode. Instead, they have a rifle attack and a 30 second lifespan, meaning that the player must spawn them at the right time and make good use of them during those 30 seconds.

The Shofixti Scout is a well-designed ship with the self-destruct capability done properly. There is a cost to sacrificing it, it must be handled different than other ships, it has its own weaknesses and if used properly, it can weaken stronger opponents that other ships would not be able to handle themselves. The glory device is even strong enough to destroy some ships with a single hit. I’m not saying that I hate Red Faction: Armageddon. It’s just that with all of the action in the game, the addition of bigger aliens that can explode while I battle other aliens that can respawn becomes irritating when these types of encounters occur frequently. One minute I’m fighting hordes of aliens, the next moment I’m spamming my nanoforge abilities while jumping around, hiding behind cover waiting for my health to regenerate. I’ve read the reviews of this game and I haven’t come across any mention of the exploding aliens. It just made me think of how the Shofixti Scout was designed and what makes it valuable.

Like everything else, the ability to explode should always be implemented in a way that doesn’t break the flow of gameplay.

Now for something awesome:

(Video removed)

What do you think about enemies that can explode?

Star Control References in Skylanders After All...

A long time ago, I saw a tweet from Nat Loh, senior game designer at Toys for Bob:

@starcontroller have you played #Skylanders yet? how many #StarControl ship powers can you identify?

To be honest, I was surprised. I never really thought about this. Maybe this could be the obscure Star Control references after all. I was watching this clip of Flameslinger and his secondary attack is strikingly similar like the Thraddash Torch from Star Control II:

I haven’t had a chance to watch all of the videos and this is the first video I’ve seen that is exactly like one of the ship’s abilities in Star Control.

Here’s another part of the game, where I encountered an enemy with a very familiar name: Arkeyan Ultron.

Another thing that surprised me in Skylanders is the boss battles. They are not only challenging but they often resemble SHMUPs (SHoot eM UPs). The difficulty is nowhere near Ikaruga, but it’s hard enough to feel like a SHMUP and can even motivate players to buy more toys to have a better chance of winning by numbers. With this particular enemy, I was so distracted by the missiles that I couldn’t concentrate of attacking it when its shield was down. There’s another part of the game where I had to deal with two of them at the same time!

I hope Skylanders: Giants has a disc-only option when it is released; I’d hate to buy another starter kit with things I probably wouldn’t use. For example, Guitar Hero sold its sequels as disc-only, which is only logical for Skylanders to do. TFB mentioned that it will be compatible with the existing portal that came with the first game. At this moment, I’m considering adding the sequel to my collection.

Thanks Nat for tipping me off about the ship powers in Skylanders.

Nat Loh’s Twitter (@baconicecream)

Skylanders Giants Interview

This is an interview that Andy Robertson had with Paul Reiche. Some of the things mentioned are the giant toys and how some of the new toys can light up when placed on top of the portal.

One interesting thing about this interview is the last question where Andy discusses the purpose of the unlockable videos of Skylanders toys and how they are used for advertising. For those who haven’t played Skylanders, there are items called “Soul Gems” hidden throughout the game. When they are found, a skill is unlocked for a specific character and a short video of them is shown. Andy points out that by showing these clips and being able to play them at any time, it can be considered as a form of advertising, encouraging players to collect more toys. Paul mentions that the advertising could point out that Skylanders is a “collectable character game”. As developers, TFB created the game according to Activision’s specifications. I see this as another example of “video game politics”.

I remember watching Pokémon back in my childhood days, there would be ads to buy the video games, cards and movies. I became a card collector like many other kids, sparking the controversy about the series. Some people even went as far as calling Pokémon battles “animal cruelty”. People were shocked to see that a children’s show could push demand for toys and games so easily. Eventually, shows such as Monster Rancher and Digimon would join the competition. However, this is not limited to Japanese shows. It is also being done with other franchises such as Dora the Explorer, Spider-Man, My Little Pony, Ben 10, Toy Story, etc.

Did you know that Paul owns two patents related to Skylanders?

  • Video game with representative physical object related content (US 2011/0098092 A1)
  • GPS Related video game (US 2011/0028220 A1)

Although I have no legal experience whatsoever, it seems clear that if another franchise wanted to copy Skylanders, they would need Paul’s permission in order to use the toys and portal in the same way.

When the specs for Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console, it was revealed that the touchscreen controller would have “near field communication”, though this technology is completely different from what the Skylanders portal of power is using.

If Giants is as successful as the first Skylanders, then I can see a Skylanders 3 in the future. What do you think about Paul’s patents and the upcoming Skylander’s sequel?

Patent: GPS related video game
Patent: Video game with representative physical object related content
Skylanders Giants Developer Interview

Project 6014 - The Syreen

(Video removed)

In the spirit of commercialism, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day! :D

The video above shows another new feature in 6014: Different comm images. The faces are different when the player encounters different ships in the Syreen homeworld and the comm images are a completely different set for the space station and the homeworld itself. This effect is also used for the Earthlings as well.

It’s a really nice effect because it shows the player that he or she is communicating with different people. Many games today use a similar swapping method for making characters look unique.

I read in the forums that the Slylandro are in 6014, but I haven’t encountered them myself yet. I’ll have to do more hyperspace exploring to see if I can bump into them.

Stay tuned for more upcoming videos. What do you think of the Syreen in HD?

Project 6014 website

Skylanders: Giants Revealed

“Giants is the idea for the future.”
‐ Paul Reiche, CEO of Toys for Bob

With the outstanding success of the first Skylanders game, it was only logical that Activision publish its sequel, Skylanders: Giants which was recently revealed. Toys for Bob will be developing the sequel.

From what I’ve read, the current portal device will be compatible with the new game and giant toys. It will also be possible to fit 2 of the giants on a single portal. Some of them will even light up when placed on the portal without using batteries; this is done through a form of “induction”, similar to third-party chargers for cell phones that charge when placed on top of a powered platform.

Will Activision learn from Guitar Hero?

The Guitar Hero series comes to mind for anyone thinking of another peripheral-based game. Guitar Hero started off as a financially successful game with critically-acclaimed reviews. However, as the series progressed, the sequels started to receive lower reviews, resulting in lower sales. In addition, “video game politics” made more things complicated with Rock Band’s competition, Band Hero and DJ Hero. To make things more complicated, there were licensing issues and legal issues. Some artists featured in the game did not approve of their likenesses being used when playing songs they did not write. Song DLC purchased could not be played other than the one game it was intended for. There were even technical issues regarding which controllers were compatible with which games. After it was announced that Guitar Hero sequels would be postponed, there have been several layoffs. While Skylanders and Guitar Hero are very different from one another, I hope the series doesn’t fall victim to the same over-saturation that Guitar Hero suffered. Did you know that Toys for Bob helped out during the development of Guitar Hero 5 and Van Halen?


A Skylanders sequel was the most likely project TFB would be working on, considering Activision’s love for multi-platform sequels. It’s awesome that TFB prevailed in the game industry and maintained a strong relationship with Activision through hard work, meeting deadlines and experience in game design that enabled them to create games that are easy to understand for any age group. I just hope that Activision doesn’t go insane and publish rushed sequels.

What do you think about this Skylanders sequel?

Joystiq - Skylanders creative lead eying Wii U’s NFC for the future
Star Controller - Guitar Hero: Van Halen
Skylanders: Giants - Activision Media Center

Starflight 1 & 2 On

Starflight 1 & 2 are on
Starflight header on

I was browsing through and I discovered that Starflight 1 & 2 were added to GOG’s catalog. Starflight was created by Greg Johnson while he was working for Electronic Arts. This was before ToeJam & Earl was released. Paul Reiche worked with Greg on this game before Star Control. For this reason, Starflight and Star Control have things in common with one another. His experience with Starflight would eventually lead to the creation of Star Control, hence the similarities.

A long time ago, I sent an e-mail to Paul regarding his share of the pie from GOG sales. He said they came to an agreement and he is now getting royalties from Star Control sales from GOG. Although, The Ur-Quan Masters is the superior port with its remixes and speech updates. In addition, it has other touches such as rotating planets. However, if anyone wants to buy the DOS version, it’s available on I also noticed that Abandonia only removed Star Control 1’s download and Star Control 2 is still downloadable from there.

I sent an e-mail to Greg Johnson regarding his thoughts about Starflight being added to GOG and if a deal has been worked out between them. He replied that he does not actually own Starflight; the rights belong to Rod McConnell and that he’s “not sure he will really care, as he’s retired”. With that in mind, it doesn’t seem like there’s a big legal issue here like the time when Paul pointed out that Atari lost publishing rights of the Star Control games a long time ago.

I have purchased the Starflight Package and these games are certainly a sign of the times. Graphics technology certainly changed significantly between the 80s and 90s and the trend is continuing through the 2000s. I had difficulty displaying the Starflight 1 on my PC and I had to tinker with the graphic settings for DOSBox to get it to work.

I just noticed that in the above image is from Starflight 2. The human male is holding his hand in front of the alien’s hand with a ball of energy in between. This reminds me of the cover of Star Control 1, which was remade by Boris Vallajo for the Sega Genesis. Coincidence?

It’s nice to hear that Paul and Fred are getting something from the GOG sales now. Although, I still recommend playing The Ur-Quan Masters to get a more immersive experience of Star Control 2. For anyone who’s a fan of Star Control or retro DOS games in general, I recommend Starflight. It’s really interesting that Paul and Fred contributed to each other’s respective sci-fi games. Did you know that the Genesis port of Starflight was licensed, while the Star Control port was unlicensed, along with other ports from Accolade?

Have you ever played though either of the Starflight games? If so, what do you think of it?

Starflight 1 + 2 -
Abandonia - Star Control II
HumaNature Studios - Greg’s current dev studio

Project 6014 Demo Thoughts

I managed to get some more free time and checked out the latest update to Project 6014 with its hi-res graphics update. In addition, some of the music has been remixed such as the Shofixti music. As of version 0.2.1, the following species have voices: The VUX, Orz, Yehat and the Lurg.  In the sound settings, the speech volume was set to zero.

While the plot starts with finding a missing Shofixti scout force, ultimately leading to an encounter with the Lurg, a fan-created species, there are other things to explore. For example, what other races have done after the destruction of the Sa-Matra and a strange marking found on a planet’s surface. After the battle with the Lurg, the player has the opportunity to send a planet lander to the surface to examine a strange object, which triggers the demo’s end cutscene before going back to the main menu. So, I highly saving the game beforehand to have more time to explore without having to restart the game from the very beginning.

The starmap has some creative updates that make it more accessible. If someone gives the player a location during a conversation, the map is updated.The blue text box also reminds the player that the starmap is searchable. The starmap shows smaller circles, making it easier to find aliens in their respective spheres of influences.

Here is a recording of an Orz conversation. It includes its own custom speech.

Did you notice how the music quiets down when the speech is playing? I think it did this in UQM as well, but I just noticed this now with Project 6014.

With the Orz font, it uses a calculator-style font to differentiate the words that are not accurately translated by the ship’s computer, which is explained in original SC2 game. Personally, I think the Orz voice used here is well-done the audio effects sound Orz-ish and the voices are still clear. The Orz in SC2 were voiced by Greg Johnson, creator of ToeJam & Earl and recently, Deko-Deko Mail and Quiz for Facebook. Greg also did the voices of the Utwig and Pkunk.

The Project 6014 demo is looking great and I hope this project continues. Even though it’s fan-fiction, this is the closest thing we have to UQM HD at the moment. I’ll be uploading more videos in the future to show off more gameplay. There’s more to come.

Project 6014 homepage
Project 6014 Demo 0.2.1 released

Epic Trailers

I wanted to write a quick post about two trailers I came across:

The first one is from a user named “JimPlaysGames”. This for his let’s play series which he will be concluding. I like how he crops the user interface of the game to give the impression that everything is a cinematic. His voiceover is very nice and the editing is well done. From watching this trailer, it made me realize that of all the details TFB put into SC2, they even included smaller details such as stars expanding and objects on a planet’s surface blinking to show that it is active and attracts the player’s attention.

Epic Project 6014 Update!

This is a trailer of a recent update to Project 6014 that is also epic and shows off its HD graphics, animations and user-created ships in the melee mode. It plays a remix of the intro theme I’ve never heard before. I really need more time in my life to play this. It’s really awesome to look at and they even included HD fonts. Project 6014 is composed of talented and dedicated fans in the Star Control community. They even created a hi-res starmap for players to download. After begging for an HD-remake of SC2 for many years and trying to wrap our brains around the legal status of Star Control, it’s incredibly awesome to see that the 6014 team not only remade everything in HD, but included a new story for players to sink their teeth into. I highly recommend checking this out and I hope the news continues spreading around. Please check this out. This is a must for any Star Control fan! It may even trigger more fan-mods, which became a legacy for games such as Quake, Half-Life and Unreal.

Thanks, dczanik for reminding me about this. This is a huge step towards keeping Star Control in the spotlight longer.

dczanik’s YouTube channel
Project 6014 website
JimPlaysGames’ YouTube channel
Star Control Fonts

Bithead1000's Star Control for Sega Genesis Review

“This is kind of like Intergalactic Street Fighter II”
‐ Bithead1000

I came across this review on YouTube by Bithead1000. From the video, I gather that he has played this game before the DOS version. This version tries to make use of the Sega Genesis hardware, despite fact that it was inferior to PC hardware at the time. Because of this, the gameplay was slower and the audio was a lower quality. He describes the music in this version as something reminiscent of 80s horror movies.

For those who don’t know, Accolade created the label, Ballistic, to publish a handful of unlicensed games for the Genesis. This included Star Control, which was branded as “the first 12 megabit game”. These unlicensed games resulted in a lawsuit between Sega and Accolade, which Accolade won.

Here, Bithead1000 plays through the melee mode, “the meat and potatoes of this game”. I like how he chooses ships at random and learns how to utilize each ship on the spot. It actually reminded me of how I learned the game when I first played it. By selecting a ship and pressing a button to load that ship’s “starship databank”. It’s nice to know what to call the ship and all of its components. Of course, the best to learn to play is to choose each ship, play around with it, and develop a strategy.

Another thing I like in this video is how he describes the ships. It’s not a simple fact that some ships have stronger weapons than others; ships can vary in speed, primary attack, secondary function which isn’t always a weapon, etc. It makes it easier for players to choose a favorite ship and even select a certain order of ships to play against an opponent’s order or ships.

Like many games, not only is it fun to play, it’s also fun to watch someone else play. There is something to learn from losing such as better evasion and what ship to choose next in the event of a imminent defeat.

Thanks Bithead1000 for making this video. It brings back memories of my first experience with Star Control, though it happened a very long time ago.

Have you ever played the Sega Genesis version?

YouTube: Star Control Review by Bithead1000
Star Control Promotional Card
Star Control on Other Consoles
Star Control on Sega Genesis

Let's Start The Year Off With More Video Game Politics

While I do not regularly keep track of celebrity news, a certain event has caught my attention: Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve bash a Times Square in New York City. This event was televised. Please keep in mind, I did not watch this event when it was first broadcasted. For those who do not know who Dick Clark is, he a very popular television personality who owns his own company, Dick Clark Productions. He is also known for his youthful appearance, even at his current age of 82.

There were various celebrities who appeared on these shows. Justin Bieber also performed in the New Year bash, though I am not a fan of his music. The reason why I am mentioning him is because after his performance, he had a private party with his girlfriend, Selena Gomez, friends, family and other people from the Island Def Jam record label, which was sponsored by Activision! He and his guests played Skylanders and other Activision-produced games.

Now why is this worth mentioning? First of all, this news is spreading around quickly due to Bieber’s popularity. With the popularity of New Year’s Eve countdowns, Activision easily reached out to millions of people watching. It reinforces the fact that Skylanders will become a big franchise that will have a marketing campaign as strong as Call of Duty. With the strong ratings for a children’s game, high sales and celebrity endorsement, this product easily stands out in both the video game and toy markets. Pokémon will finally face direct competition from a powerful competitor similar to the competition between Call of Duty MW3 and Battlefield 3, where both games have achieved high sales and critical acclaim.

The current layout of the Toys for Bob website, there is no longer a news section. We may not be seeing new updates from Alex Ness anymore :(, but we know they are working hard on another secret unannounced project.

Should I worry about SOPA?

I am aware of SOPA, the “Stop Online Piracy Act”. In summary, the purpose of SOPA is to block any websites accused of breaking the law from being visited by US internet users, receiving US funding, ad revenue, etc. However, the way the law is written and the nature of the internet, this will affect the entire world. Essentially, any site under SOPA can be blocked or removed without contacting the site owner. This blog is hosted on GoDaddy, a company that supports SOPA. I am prepared to migrate this site to another host if I need to; I have prior experience with migrating Wordpress blogs so this is not hard for me to do.


I would like to wish everyone a happy new year. I hope Skylander’s success brings TFB closer to more projects for them to have greater creative control over. I believe this shows how strong marketing campaigns and taking calculated risks by allowing TFB to experiment with “toys with brains” can lead to a successful game. I’m still keeping my eye on SOPA and preparing a plan should it be approved and I need to migrate to another host.

Stop American Censorship