Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Star Control

The Star Control series is a trilogy of science fiction computer games with a cult following. Modelled after Spacewar!, each of the three games adds to this a strategic or adventure portion. A new game in the series is being considered by Toys for Bob and Activision

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Star Control

The first of the series, Star Control: Famous Battles of the Ur-Quan Conflict, Volume IV was developed by Toys for Bob and published by Accolade. It was released for DOS and Amiga in 1990, followed by a Mega Drive/Genesis port in 1991. Simple ported versions were also released for the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum. The game came with a full-power scenario creator.

The game featured the basic Spacewar-style combat engine, mêlée (as it was called due to the close combat involved, even though the ships actually fired projectile weapons at each other) as well as a strategic game engine with a three-dimensional cluster of stars as the terrain. There was no real story component to the game, aside from a cursory background story explaining the existence of two alliances of alien races at war, the Alliance of Free Stars and the Hierarchy of Battle Thralls. However, the main attraction to this game was the well thought-out ship design, resulting in a highly effective balance between the two sides. It could be played by one or two players as the complete game, or purely as either melee or strategy. Single player mode pitted the player against the computer AI, ferocity of which could be chosen. For example, certain types of ship, like the mighty 'Ur-Quan Dreadnought' (Hierarchy ship), seemed to be the ultimate choice, but could actually be very easily taken out by a small 'Arilou Skiff' (Alliance ship) with ease if the Alliance player was skilled. Ironically, the Arilou Skiff was often one of the least valued Alliance ship to a novice player due to its poor weaponry.

As in the later games, the various races' ships have widely differing appearances and abilities. The ships' sizes, maneuverability, and speed vary; in addition, each ship has a distinct primary weapon and a secondary ability. For instance, the Ur-Quan Dreadnought has a powerful main gun and the ability to launch independent fighters; while the Mmrnmhrm Transformer has the ability to change between two forms, a slow one with a short-range laser as its main weapon, and the other quick with long-range guided missiles. Despite the mishmash of unique ships the designers were able to create a finely-tuned balance.

The PC version was well programmed and was sonically unique as it was able to produce digital audio (i.e., recorded voices) not only on the Sound Blaster, but also on the monotone PC speaker and even the traditionally frequency modulated music-only AdLib.

The Sega version was a rushed release, not having been optimally coded. Rampant slowdown marred much of the core gameplay and the creators admit and regret having released such a hasty conversion. It was, however, notable in that it led to a lawsuit between Accolade and Sega of America. At the time, Sega regulated the release of third-party software through a licensing arrangement, which Accolade had bypassed. Although the lawsuit was settled in Accolade's favour, making an extremely important legal precedent in the matter, the company later became a licensed Sega developer. Star Control was touted as the first 12-megabit cartridge created for the system, and it contained a hodge-podge of graphics and sound effects from both Star Control and its PC sequel. Because it was a cartridge-based game with no battery backup, the Genesis port lacked the scenario-creator of its PC cousin, but it came pre-loaded with a few additional scenarios not originally in the game. Accolade published the game under a then-new company label, Ballistic.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Star Control II

Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters (officially "II", often written as "2") was written by Toys for Bob (Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III) and originally published by Accolade in 1992 for PC; it was later ported to the 3DO with an enhanced multimedia presentation, allowed by the CD technology.

SC2 is generally regarded as the best of the trilogy and the reason for the series' devoted fanbase. It added a large number of species and ship types to the already diverse cast and replaced the first game's strategy-based scenarios with a story-driven space exploration adventure game that included diplomacy with the inhabitants of the galaxy, some resource-gathering sub-sections, and instances of the mêlée combat of the first game whenever diplomacy failed.

The Captain's ship enters the Sol System at the beginning of the game.Interaction with the various alien species was a chief part of the adventure game; the backstory of both the species from the first games and new ones were fleshed out considerably. There were literally hours of dialogue, each species bringing out their characteristic conversational quirks, music, and even display fonts. In mêlée, Star Control II maintained the originality of ship design from the first game, extending the strategic possibilities of the combat section greatly with the addition of a multitude of new ships. A two-player mode was available, named Super Mêlée, consisting solely of the ship-to-ship combat. All ships from the first game were included, even if they made no appearance in the story.

To many, the game's strongest aspect is its atmosphere. The carefully designed plot significantly impacts the game experience by requiring the player to explore every corner of the galaxy and make discoveries and connections independently; all this, occurring within a huge game world featuring numerous alien species, a vast number of star systems to visit, and dynamic events depending on the actions of the player created a powerful sense of openness, cause-and-effect functionality, and freedom; this gives the player the feeling that they are indeed interacting with a realistic universe instead of merely pitting their wits against those of the game designers.

The soundtrack of the PC version was top-notch — the contents were determined by running a contest which anybody could participate in, composing tracks based on a description of the game. Included on the soundtrack were compositions of Aaron Grier, Erol Otus, Eric E. Berge, Riku Nuottajärvi and Dan Nicholson, the president and founding member of The Kosmic Free Music Foundation. Music was in MOD format which utilizes digitized instrument samples while most of PC gamemusic still relied on FM-synthesis based instruments at the time.

Star Control II was highly influenced, both in story and game design, by the games Starflight (1986) and Starflight 2: Trade Routes of the Cloud Nebula (1989), developed by Binary Systems and released on a variety of platforms by Electronic Arts. Indeed Greg Johnson, StarFlight's lead designer helped write dialog for Star Control II and Paul Reiche III contributed to StarFlight's alien communication system. David Brin's science fiction series about the Uplift Universe is also often mentioned as inspiration for the Star Control II universe.

IGN named Star Control II the 17th best game of all time , and Gamespot named it one of the greatest games of all time

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Star Control 3

Star Control 3 was developed by Legend Entertainment, hired by Accolade to create a sequel when the original creators expressed their disinterest in creating a sequel for the same amount of money they were paid for Star Control 2 (which left them working for several months without pay). It was released for MS-DOS and the Macintosh in 1996. Toys For Bob was not involved in the development of this game in any way.

The game used a 2.5D form of melee combat, but 2D combat was still available. However, unlike SC2, all ship designs absent from the story mode were omitted (with the exception of the Arilou, who were included supposedly because the authors did not wish to reveal in advance that they were not part of the story). The module tunes of the second game were replaced with MIDI music, and pixel animations for communication with aliens were replaced with rendered and digitized 2D graphics of live puppets.

The gameplay was a mix of borrowing the melee combat and alien encounter dialogue trees from SC2, with new colony management elements which could be compared to Master of Orion. SC2's resource gathering, and hyperspace travel gameplay elements were omitted.

SC3's story expanded on the mystery of the Precursor's disappearance, and introduced new enemies in the form of the Hegemonic Crux.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Star Control 4, or later StarCon, was Accolade's final attempt at profiting from the franchise. Few details are known, as Accolade reshaped and eventually cancelled it during the development stages; however, the Harika had been confirmed as a returning alien race. While originally touted as another space adventure, the idea quickly changed into an action-oriented combat title, to be viewed largely from behind the ship, with gameplay similar to Psygnosis' Colony Wars series, somewhat like a shooting-oriented X-Wing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Star Control: Interbellum

Star Control: Interbellum is a novel written by William T. Quick set in the Star Control universe. It was first published in 1996, shortly after the release of Star Control 3. Many fans were disappointed upon reading the book, as several details in it were inconsistent with those of the games, especially those dealing with the depictions of some of the alien races featured in both.

The Ur-Quan Masters

The Ur-Quan Masters (UQM) project aims to port Star Control II to modern operating systems including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and BSD. The project began in 2002 when the original creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III released the source code of the 3DO version as open source under the GPL. It is currently at version 0.6.2 [4], and has accomplished its goal. It has also added the option of online multiplayer Melee play, something which was not available in the original game. A variety of modifications to the melee have been released by fans, including versions with superpowered ships and numerous planets. As of version 0.4, the long-missing intro and ending movies were finally added, as was an in-game setup menu.

The name of the project only uses SC2's name in a sub-title due to not owning the intellectual property (IP) rights to use the name. The "Star Control" IP is owned by Atari, who acquired them when they were known as Infogrames when they acquired Accolade.

While development on the UQM codebase continues, a second group of professional musicians called The Precursors are creating new musical tracks and remixes of the originals. They are an optional package that can be listened to in-game, replacing the original music, or just played with an audio player.

A very playable port has been produced for the GP2X portable game system and is available at the GP2X file repository

Friday, August 25, 2006


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The K'tang are a fictional race of beings featured in the sci-fi Star Control computer game series.
The K'tang are small, weak, cowardly worms with minimal intelligence, low cunning, and a bad case of spinal column envy. They evolved painfully aware of their own inferiority, amongst several other bigger, smarter, and generally more worthwhile species. In an atypical display of cunning, the K'tang managed to scavenge or hijack enough sophisticated technology to cobble together Mecha. These Mecha were the perfect answer to the K'tangs inferiority complex, enormous, massively armoured, studded with guns and as scary as all hell, and the elevation rather went to the K'tangs' largely empty heads. After killing all competing races, a significant portion of their own species and enslaving those that remained, the Mech-equipped K'tang strode onto the galactic scene!
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
This was not to be without incident, however - the K'tang are blustering, idiotic and aggressive at the best of times, and their short fuses and belligerence put them on the wrong end of a five on one war with the neighbouring races, one that they were losing. Despite their powerful weaponry, not a single worm had a single inkling of strategic thought, no warrior lowered himself to running the supply lanes, and no slave was good enough to do it. In short, each individual K'tang scrouned whatever weapons he could, then went into battle hiding behind his allies, waiting for an opportunity to bag himself a foe. This, as you'd expect, does not translate well to grand strategic thought, and the K'tang were losing ground fast.
This is when the K'tang encountered the Ploxis Plutocrats, who were, at this point, looking for some easily controllable and not overly bright muscle to serve them. The K'tang met these standards and quickly allowed their 'allies' to run their logistics and strategy, rapidly turning the tide of the war in their favour. Once their enemies were 'crushified', they joined up with the Ploxis full time, performing varied roles in their schemes, such as killing Ploxis, killing Doog, killing Harika, and killing the League.
The last of these duties was to be their downfall, for the asinine worms let rather a lot slip during their blustering conversations with the leader of the League forces, including much of their Ploxis' carefully constructed plots that allowed the tide to turn against the Crux. Their downfall finally came when the Captain procured the Overlord-Seeking Larvacide missile from the Daktaklakpak and atomized the armoured shell that housed the K'tang King (An esteemeed rank based on who could shout the loudest). The naked worm quickly surrendered to the League, and he and his men served as sullen allies for the remainder of the war, lest the League use their weapon and return them to the dirt.