The war continues...and this is Brad's biggest battle yet! Check out part 7 of "Humans vs. The Multiverse" and see if today is victorious...or if today is bloody. It's entirely possible it's both!
The war continues...and this is Brad's biggest battle yet! Check out part 7 of "Humans vs. The Multiverse" and see if today is victorious...or if today is bloody. It's entirely possible it's both!
We live in an age where developers actually brag about creating random quests as if that’s a good thing.
In an age of gigabytes of memory the challenge isn’t in how many worlds you have, it is how to make those worlds compelling.
In Star Control: Origins, there are no random missions.
No episode of Star Trek ever ended with Captain Kirk receiving 14 Dilithium crystals for his troubles. Star Control is about telling stories in which you are the central character.
Each mission is designed to tell a story. While we don’t forbid missions from giving the player some sort of tangible reward, most of them simply alter the universe in some, subtle way. It is the journey, not the destination we care about.
Consider the popular HBO series, Westworld®. In that series, guests travel to Westworld and interact with “hosts” that are AI-driven beings with scripts. In no episode is it suggested that guests leave with some sort of monetary benefit. Instead, the world is designed for visitors to learn a little bit more about themselves.
While the central narrative (spoiler alert – not really) is that you must save the human race from certain annihilation, there is one way to accomplish that task. Far be it from us to get in the way of a voyage of self discovery. You have a goal (save all life on Earth from terrible murder aliens). How you do that is none of our business. We just hope you do it. You know, so that we don’t…well…die. Living is our favorite state of existence.
Building a rich, living universe
So you might ask yourself, if you’re not going to resort to randomly generated quests where the player does X to get Y, how are you going to have enough content to make the world feel truly alive?
The answer, my friends, is that you make it easy for creators to tell stories.
Consider for a moment the user interface presented in Westworld:
Now, to be fair, this system is far too complex for the authors we are seeking out to use. Our answer is Adventure Studo, a new major application we are working on. This app alone is as big as one of our major software projects. Its purpose is to make it possible for us to recruit Sci-Fi authors to easily create their own stories in Star Control.
Like many of you, we love to tell stories. Stories that don’t necessarily end with the protagonist gaining 5 quadroons of space-gold. And the way you make that happen is to make it easy for creators to do their thing.
At GDC, we’ll be showing off Adventure Studio. To my knowledge, no one has ever tried to do something like this (though I want to give props to the Never Winter Nights team for doing a lot of pioneering in this area).
Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
Given the recent press on the topic of the legal dispute between Stardock and Paul Reiche and Fred Ford, designers of Star Control I and II, I wanted to take time to make our position clear and address inaccuracies being promoted.
As the need arises, I’ll continue to update this post with additional questions and answers.
Q: What are the issues in dispute?
A: On the eve of launch of the beta of Star Control: Origins, a game Stardock has spent the past four years working on, Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford, the designers of Star Control II for Accolade 25 years ago announced a new game, Ghosts of the Precursors as a “direct” sequel to Star Control even going so far as to promote it as Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors.
They did this despite knowing Stardock had acquired the Star Control IP in 2013 and knowing before hand our announcement schedule. Their actions created confusion in the market as to the origin of Star Control games which is why we have trademark laws.
When Stardock asked that they cease and desist marketing their game as a sequel to Star Control they refused and began demanding that the sale of the DOS games, which had been on sale continuously since before Stardock acquired the IP and for which they had been receiving royalties for during the entire time cease and began to disparage Stardock publicly in the press.
Despite Stardock's best efforts to reach a private, mutually beneficial co-existence agreement, Paul and Fred responded with increasingly hostile, misleading public attacks and served Steam and GOG with DMCA take-down notices on all of the classic DOS games, including Star Control 3 which they had no involvement with all while continuing to promote their new game as the "true" sequel to Star Control.
In addition, Paul Reiche and Fred Ford also began to claim that various features of Star Control: Origins violated their copyrights such as the ship designer, user interface similarities and other elements that are not subject to copyright protection (you can’t copyright an idea and Star Control itself was inspired by many other games). They also began to demand special access to Star Control: Origins to inspect it and demanded the removal of the ship designer,
As a result of their broad interpretation of what they believe they have rights to combined with their willingness to instruct their lawyers to issue a DMCA take down notices, even on titles in which they had no involvement in, combined with their refusal to cease promoting their game as the sequel to Star Control, Stardock was forced to file a complaint over their continuing trademark infringement.
In retaliation, Reiche and Ford filed a countersuit seeking to cancel the Star Control trademark and for copyright infringement due to the sale of the classic Star Control games on GOG and Steam.
Update 3/30: As a gesture of goodwill to make clear that our goal in this dispute is only to protect our Star Control rights and not any claims on the original DOS games, we have decided to suspend sales of Star Control 1 and 2 as of April 4, 2018 until this matter is settled.
Q: Why did Stardock file the initial lawsuit against Paul and Fred?
A: We had no choice after Paul and Fred filed DMCA claims against the distribution not only of Star Control 1 and 2 but also Star Control 3 which they admit they had no involvement. The DMCA claims were reversed, but it was clear that our ability to create more experiences in the Star Control multiverse for fans would be at risk if they are allowed to continue to misrepresent their new game as being associated with Star Control without a license while simultaneously making broad, unsupportable claims of ownership on ideas and concepts that are present not just in Star Control games but games in general.
Q: How did these unfortunate events come to pass?
A: Here is a timeline of the order of events:
Q: But isn't it true that Star Control: Origins has very similar gameplay to Star Control II? That you explore planets, travel through hyperspace to different star systems, meet with aliens? Couldn't their copyright of Star Control II mean that Star Control: Origins is too similar?
A: No. You cannot copyright an idea. Putting aside that Star Control itself borrowed many ideas from many other games, copyright protects creative expression. Not game play.
There are articles you can read that discuss this:
Obviously, anyone who has ever played Angry Birds or Candy Crunch already knows this.
That said, Star Control: Origins is not a clone of Star Control II. The 25-year gap in game technology allows Star Control: Origins to deliver a much richer experience. So while the core concepts remain true: You are the captain of a starship traveling through this part of the galaxy, meeting aliens, engaging in battles, exploring planets, the implementation is very different.
In short: Gameplay clones aren't illegal and even if it were illegal, Star Control: Origins is not a clone.
Q: Why does Stardock claim that Paul and Fred were not the creators of Star Control?
A: Paul and Fred were the designers of Star Control I and II. In the credits, on the box and elsewhere they had previously officially listed themselves as either developers or designers. While Stardock has no objection to “creators” in the casual sense, legally, and when trying to promote a product in commerce, they are not. Most of the Copyrighted material people think of as being important to Star Control was created and owned by others.
For 25 years, Designer was their official designation.
It is Stardock's opinion that they have begun to focus on referring to themselves as "creators" in their marketing in order to give the impression that Ghosts of the Precursors would have the the same creative core as Star Control II. This is not the case.
What most people do not realize is Star Control II had, in essence, the dream Sci-Fi team as mentioned in this 25th anniversary tribute. The lead animator went on to lead the animation at Pixar and is the director of the Minions movies. Many of the alien designs were created by the artist who went on to design Darth Maul and other Star Wars and Marvel movie characters. Many of the most quoted lines came from seasoned Sci-Fi writers. The engaging music was created by others.
We respect Paul and Fred’s crucial contributions as well as the rest of the talented team who worked on Star Control.
Q: Who owns the Star Control trademark?
A: Stardock is the legal owner of the federally registered trademark for Star Control.
Q: What does Stardock want out of this lawsuit?
A: Our ONLY goal is to protect our ability to tell more stories in the Star Control multiverse. We remain fans of Paul and Fred and their contributions to Star Control. However, given the confusion they’ve created in the market by promoting their new game as a “true sequel” to Star Control II combined with their abuse of the DMCA system to take down even Star Control games they had no involvement with, we are forced to act to prevent them from continuing to create confusion.
Consider some of your favorite games or movies. Now imagine if someone instrumental to the development of that game or movie went on to claim to be making a sequel to that game or movie without the consent of the owners of that trademark? What would be the result?
Q: But doesn't Paul and Fred own all the in-game IP?
A: Paul and Fred own whatever IP they created. However, many products you buy every day are made by one party and then licensed and branded by another party. Star Control was Accolade's brand. Paul and Fred's ownership of licensed content does not confer any rights to represent future works as a sequel to Accolade (now Stardock's) brand. The argument that Paul and Fred have intentionally associated themselves so closely with the Star Control brand is not a point in their favor.
Even the box-art, owned by Stardock, from Star Control II is used to promote Paul and Fred's new game. As in, our own box is used to promote a competing product.
Q: Do these legal issues have any impact on the development of Star Control: Origins?
A: Not at all. The team is focused on making the best Star Control game yet and we’re making fantastic progress every week. You can read the latest update on the game’s development here.
Q: Why did Stardock trademark Ur-Quan Masters, Super Melee, and other names from the original games?
A: Once Paul and Fred began to challenge the validity of our intellectual property we were forced to take steps to solidify our common law rights.
As background: Stardock always had the common law trademark to Ur-Quan Masters. It's the sub-title to Star Control II after all and was, by Paul and Fred's admission, available in commerce on GOG even before Stardock was involved. Super-Melee is literally a promoted feature from Star Control. The alien names are so strongly associated with Star Control that if you Google Star Control aliens they come up as the first entry.
They have made it very clear that they believe that they have the right to associate their new game with Star Control on the basis that they have previously licensed content to Star Control games. They have no such right.
Q: Why did Stardock really need to trademark the Star Control 2 alien names?
A: Star Control fans expect new Star Control games to have the Spathi, Ur-Quan, Orz, etc. We originally chose not to include them in Star Control: Origins in deference to Paul and Fred who asked us not to.
However, in December 2017, Paul and Fred posted:
This creates confusion because Stardock alone owns the Star Control universe. That doesn’t mean it owns any lore or stories created by others. It just means that Stardock has the right to determine what is canon in the Star Control universe.
The Star Control aliens are associated with Star Control. That doesn’t mean Stardock can use expressions and stories of those aliens without permission. But it does mean Stardock has the right to create its own stories and expressions for the Ur-Quan, Spathi, etc.
When Paul and Fred were contracted to develop Star Control I and Star Control II for Accolade, they were allowed to keep certain copyrights to the works they created. But all trademarks were explicitly defined as being owned by Accolade.
Incidentally, their name was put into a diagram because they literally announced their game as a sequel to Star Control II. They associated their new game with Star Control, not the other way around.
Q: Is Stardock trying to prevent Paul and Fred from making new games in their universe?
A: No. Stardock wants them to create new games in the universe they created. However, this needs to be handled in such a way that there is no confusion as to the relationship between Star Control and the works they licensed for Star Control II.
Q: If Stardock wants a new game from Paul and Fred, why did the settlement offer that Paul and Fred publicly posted that they claim came from Stardock demand that they "surrender" their IP?
A: It is regrettable that Paul and Fred chose to violate confidentiality and post, without context, a settlement offer. The objective was to reduce the monetary damages in exchange for avoiding any chance that this would ever happen again. To that end, one of the proposals was to transfer any and all IP they claimed in exchange for lowering the damages.
Stardock paid over $300,000 for the Star acontrol IP which included the trademark and copyright to Star a Control 3. The Star Control brand is, in our view, far more valuable than any copyrighted material within a 25 year old DOS game. Source code and alien art. Nothing else, as far as we can discern, falls under copyright protection. You can’t copyright “lore” or timelines, or alien names, or game designs or UI.
Thus, all we would gain would be the ability to have Ur-Quan that look just like the old Ur-Quan and space ships that look like the classic space ships. The greater value would be to make sure this kind of dispute didn’t happen again. But that valzue would still not overcome the damage they’ve caused in the market place due to the confusion on who owns Star Control and the ill will due to their PR company issuing false and misleading press releases and publicizing the dispute in a way to maximize ill will.
None of this would prevent Paul and Fred from making a new game if that really is their desire. Stardock, in turn, would be happy to license, free of charge, any IP they needed to make their new game.
Our respect for the work Paul and Fred did 25 years ago remains undiminished. However, that respect does not give them the right to disrupt our product development at the 11th hour or misrepresent their new endeavors as the "true" sequel to our products.
Our dedication to bringing you a new Star Control game remains unchanged. BETA 2 of Star Control: Origins is due in a few weeks.
For those interested in reading the details, our complete initial filing available online:
Stardock 25th anniversary post documenting the creation of Star Control:
Thank you for being fans of Star Control, and supporting our effort to make a great new game in the Star Control franchise.
And if you have questions that you’d like to see added to this post, feel free to reach out to me directly via Twitter at @kevinunangst
Vice President, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships
The new Star Control is moving swiftly! We expect to release Fleet Battles Beta 2 within the next several weeks as most of our work is focused on the adventure game.
We have been listening to feedback from the fans and incorporated that feedback into the project.
For example, below is a screenshot which shows the updated home solar system:
Our home solar system
How will we feed our billions?
In Galactic Civilizations III, we presume that by the time we are colonizing planets, our home world has reached an equilibrium between food production and population. But let's face it: when we colonize other planets, it'll take many years for those planets to build up sufficient farming infrastructure to produce for the kinds of populations you have on your home world.
Galactic Civilizations III will be treating food a bit differently to reflect the awareness of just how important a large population is on your planets.
When Galactic Civilizations III first shipped, players built farms on planets and that would increase that planet's population. Because it was so easy to increase your population, our conversion between population to production was: production = the square root of population.
One of the biggest challenges we have faced in developing Galactic Civilizations III has been map sizes and the memory they require.
On a number of occasions, we have tried to reduce the the largest map sizes down to improve performance and shrink memory requirements. And each time we have attempted to do that, we have ended up with a very vocal outcry of anger.
But large map sizes come with a significant memory cost to be aware of.
Yesterday we launched the 2.71 update which featured a number of changes to air units and some improvements to Scenarios and Campaigns. With King of the Hill and Overlord tweaked, this now means almost every Scenario and almost every Campaign mission has received a rework over the last year compared to how it was when they launched. Sometimes I get nostalgic for how much Ashes has changed since I started last January and how overpowered certain strategies used to be (Punisher rush, anyone?).
I'm not liking the farming mechanic. It seemed like a good idea on paper but in practice, it's just tedious and exploitive. Here's how I'd like to see it work:
Some planets would have a Arable land tile including all starting planets. Building on these tiles produces food.
The tech tree would have a path for players who want to get the most out of those resources to get a lot of food. The arable land resource be destructable -- you can destroy it (like you can any resource btw) to put something else there. This would make food take its rightful place as an important strategic resource rather than one that is simply produced by min/maxing.
What are your thoughts?
CEO Brad Wardell is trying every strategy he can think of to repel the attacks of the Centauri Republic in Galactic Civilizations III: Crusade!
Check out Episode 6 in "Humans vs. Multiverse" today.
Major AI improvements have been made in order to make computer opponents feel more "human-like" and to keep the base game interesting and fun for both new and veteran players. Learn more here.
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